Editor’s Note: The Tightening Grip of Regulations

That squeaking noise we’re hearing is the turning vise of government regulations on manufacturers and industrial producers. While we’re two months away from the major federally mandated conflict minerals reporting deadline, California, under a state green chemistry law, has declared the first three consumer products for regulatory scrutiny due to the chemicals used to make them.

In play also is EPA’s proposal of much stricter – many say unrealistic – greenhouse gas emission rules for coal-fired power plants.

Finessing regulatory hurdles has always been a way of life for manufacturing businesses big and small. But in this modern era of ethical sourcing, for all its good intentions of bringing social progress on a mass scale, regulatory hurdles are becoming veritable high jumps, which especially smaller suppliers will find unable to surmount.

Their modus operandi is not an outright ban but to insidiously discourage manufacturers’ way of life and encourage alternatives for the greater good that may be impractical and costly. These rules are also fraught with social and brand reputation risks. The necessary evils of doing business are being rooted out, taken over by the social cost, and manufacturers are facing potentially difficult decisions to change with the times or pack up.
William Ng, Editor-in-Chief, wng@thomasnet.com


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  • Rose of Sharon DeVos
    March 31, 2014

    The turning vise of government regulations is in part because corporations have shirked their social responsibilities, giving government an excuse to force more costly regulations on companies of all sizes. Unless we as manufacturers step up to the plate and look closely at how our businesses and buying decisions are impacting the world, someone else is always bound to tell us how to do it.

    The right thing to do is take control of our brands and specifically talk about the importance of ethics in business, and the ethical decisions that consumers are making with every dollar they spend. For example, if the public is not aware of the raping and pillaging of the DRC, why would they care if a company is “Conflict Minerals Free”? Who is going to inform them? We need to see more main-stream ads from the corporate giants showing how the products we buy impact lives around the world, and what company X is doing about it.

    If corporations will step up to the plate and with due diligence exceeding the expectations of the EPA, the SEC and other government agencies, and then inform their constituents and consumers of their efforts, perhaps we can slow the tightening of the vise.

  • Scott Burr, Principal Innovation Scientific LLC
    March 31, 2014

    I read your editorial with interest.

    The response to regulations and the desire for profit in business fits an evolutionary pattern in business and in life – people want what they want. In the discipline of TRIZ (Structured Innovation) it is called Ideality. But rather than have one priority pitted against the other (regulations which protect some people’s interest and profitability which protect others), industry should take the lead and resolve the contradiction. You are in a premium position to do that – and you are – by writing this editorial and creating awarreness as the starting point.

    Here’s an idea: If this trend of regulations were to accelerate even more dramatically in the next ten years how would you consider helping the industry address it? You do not strike me as one who “rolls over”.

    Could we potentially demand that our industry associations follow the evolution of regulations more closely, predict potential outcomes and engage others to create solutions that automate some aspects of compliance? What role does or could open source developers have in automating compliance with regulations. I would suggest that you check into this.

    My business partner and I run a thought leadership company and we discovered several open source software projects that automate compliance in the safety field – but perhaps not in the arena you discuss. Should industry step up and see what is out there? Should someone take the lead?

    I would argue that the regulations are actually a form of “DNA constraint” on businesses that help it achive its evolutionary breakthrough or determine that it cannot hack it in a new arena. This does not take away the pain of it but it can prompt us all to ‘up our game’ in achieveing everything we want in society and not just some of what we want.

    Thank you very much for your article. You promted me to engage.

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