February 15, 2016
Sustainable business practices can help coatings companies make a lasting, positive impact on people and the communities they live in through environmentally conscious manufacturing processes and the use of sustainable raw materials. However, if environmental regulations become too strict or complex, they can hinder growth and become a burden to the industry, and ultimately, to society.
It’s a difficult balance to achieve, but the coatings industry and its suppliers are finding solutions to operate in a way that is beneficial for all.
Beginning the dialogue
California is a prime example of a place where the dialogue among lawmakers, communities and coatings industry representatives is ongoing and necessary. The warm climate, mountainous terrain and massive population in Southern California have made air pollution a hot-button topic for decades. As a result of those conditions, California has enacted some of the most stringent air pollution laws in the nation.
Regulating air quality is necessary, but compliance can sometimes come at a cost. If compliance is too difficult to attain, coatings companies can face financial hardship.
At the Western Coatings Show in October, a panel discussion focused on this topic. Panelists discussed the need for agreement between lawmakers and the coatings producers to help ensure regulations governing the industry are effective in reducing the emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment, but not at the expense of the financial health of companies, suppliers and the industry as a whole.
Many coatings companies have already taken it upon themselves to improve their products ahead of legislative requirements. Since the late 1990s, a number of coatings companies have been at the forefront of using low-VOC colorant technology. Low-VOC compounds are now being used in advanced products such as solar reflective colorants, which are aimed at producing sustainable results for end users.
Particularly in the last decade, advancements in technology have also helped reduce manufacturing and processing costs for lower-VOC coating products, making them more economically sustainable. Coatings companies can now produce sustainable and environmentally friendly coatings that are often more economically viable, as well as that have the characteristics that are more desirable by the end users.
Where are we going?
Irresponsible production of coatings can lead to needless damage to our natural resources. But excessive regulation of the industry can handcuff companies with cumbersome and costly compliance standards, eating into revenue, stunting growth and hurting job creation.
The coatings industry and its suppliers understand the need for responsible production of sustainable products and have taken many steps over the past 20 years to advance coatings technology in that direction. However, coatings companies, their customers and suppliers must continue to advocate for smart change that occurs at a reasonable pace.
Effective, well-paced developments in sustainable coatings will only come about as a result of a continued dialogue between the coatings industry, its suppliers and our lawmakers. Both sides must come to the table with open minds and the greater goals in mind. The sweet spot for all involved is when we can produce the best products at an affordable price, continue growing the industry and add jobs, while at the same time having a positive, long-term impact on our resources and communities. If all concerned parties work together toward that goal, everyone will succeed.