Can a regulation help business?
It would hardly be news worthy if the owner of a small manufacturing business like me reacted negatively toward a new regulation, especially one that requires business to assess products for toxic ingredients and seek safer alternatives. Just such a regulation is here, titled the Safer Consumer Products regulation that goes into effect today in California, aimed at ending the constant stream of news that a trusted product contains hazardous ingredients, and which dove-tails with the national Safe Chemicals Act that passed in 2012. This can’t be good for business, can it?
The reality is this regulation is exactly the role government should play, and one of the best ways government can help business.
I realize I just put regulation, government role and helping business in the same argument. Let me explain why I believe this is a good thing. A few years ago, my company Hero Arts embarked on a journey to innovate what we do, in order to compete globally on quality, craftsmanship and price. We had to find ways to increase our quality and lower our costs while increasing productivity. No small task. In this process, we soon found ourselves asking: why not systematically remove all toxins, chemicals and solvents from our products and our manufacturing processes?
Despite the near economic Armageddon in our industry, especially in small-scale retailing where we sell most of our products, today we find we are not only still here but thriving. We sell to 5,000 retail locations around the world, employ 65 people right here in California, and are the leader in our market in product quality and brand recognition.
In many ways, clear, reliable and timely regulations help businesses like mine. Such regulations can reduce business risk by eliminating the chance of unforeseen costs, and by doing so lay the foundation for investment and innovation. For me and my company, innovation is the story behind my success despite tough economic times. The investment in innovation, efficiency and change has allowed my company to thrive. These investment decisions -- and the awards we received because of them including a California Governor’s Environmental Award -- are indicative of an ability to think long-term. Without reliable regulations and a clear “line in the sand” by government, none of this would be possible. Some rules, such as those within the proposed Safer Consumer Products regulations, can be good: they clarify an otherwise turbulent landscape, create regulations businesses can rely on, and reduce long-term risk. In this environment, businesses will invest, create jobs, and plan for the long-term as I did.
I might not agree that every aspect of any regulation is correct or viable. But I respect the rules that do pass, and being able to rely on them to clarify and reduce long-term risk has unlocked the ability of businesses like mine to find new and better ways to compete. Don’t just take my word for it: companies including Clorox, WalMart, Method, California Baby and Green Toys have already embraced the concepts of safer ingredients.
Regulations can help business, and Safer Consumer Products is one such example. It points to the future, a future that helps the business environment of California manage risk and thus invest for the future. That is a future that I will invest in.