At the IWPA convention, we had a guest in the audience offer up a wonderful insight:
“You can lead a bureaucrat to common sense but you can’t make him think.”
Isn’t that true? I often describe my job as “dealing with all our industry’s green tape.” I worry about regulations from CARB to Lacey and programs from FSC to LEED. I check ISO ratings, collect MSDS’s, study certificates and I stockpile pdfs of data like they were going out of style. I spend my days working my way around sites run by acronyms like the EPA, ITC, DOC, APHIS, and more. I have trouble sometimes constructing a sentence made of complete words rather than abbreviations.
I used to spend all my energy trying to move the company forward. I found new suppliers, developed new products, and met with new customers. I was focused on expansion. Now it seems as if almost all my time is spent just trying to keep us from losing ground to yet another regulation, another bit of green tape designed to slow us down.
There was a time when the regulations and certifications were designed to protect the worker, protect the consumer, protect the environment. I’m sure some are still created for honest and sincere reasons. But how many of what are proposed for what is stated to be a noble reason really have a hidden agenda—be it putting up a trade barrier for some competing product or supporting a test-based economy.
Consider where all this green tape comes from. Some strands are created by the government. Some are promoted by companies who utilize regulations to try to give themselves a competitive edge. Some are developed by groups opposed to that particular industry (in our case, wood). Others are designed by organizations who profit from having more certifications and more testing. Take a look at the next regulation you have to deal with and ask yourself “why was this created?” More importantly, “who profits from having this one in place?” Ask yourself “is this really necessary and does it provide real and necessary protection for the consumer/worker/environment?”
One of the big reasons always cited for why we can’t simplify the tax code is that we’d put too many people out of work. Regulation is an economic force unto itself. Sometimes the regulation is set up to hurt one industry or one segment of industry by supporting another and sometimes it’s done just to create a regulatory economy where the profit is in the regulation itself—in the testing, in the certification, in the paperwork it generates and the consultants that explain it.
At some point it would be nice to see a bit of common sense prevail, but I best not hold my breath on that. After all, blue isn’t my color…green is. And I’m just covered in green tape.
Elizabeth Baldwin is Environmental Compliance Officer for Metropolitan Hardwood Floors. In her 25 plus year career in the wood industry has visited over 70 countries and hundreds of facilities of all sizes and types. She describes herself as a “jack of all wood trades.” Familiar with jungles of all sorts–having camped out along the Amazon and walked the halls of Congress–she blogs for the NWFA on both environmental and regulatory issues for educational and informational purposes only. Her blog is not intended and should not be construed as legal advice. Persons seeking legal advice on compliance with CARB, TSCA, the U.S. Lacey Act or any other law, regulation, or compliance requirement/claim should consult with the regulatory agency directly and/or a qualified legal professional.