The three-day event took place earlier this month at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City. And it was clear from the outset that attendees were there to explore how best to keep the cosmetics and personal care brands they work with in good standing with consumers, with national and state governments, and in the eyes of the law.
In her opening remarks, event co-chair Sharon Blinkoff, counsel at Locke Lord, and secretary and general counsel with the Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors (ICMAD), commented that “right now one of the big issues for the industry is class action.”
“For nearly 80 years, cosmetic regulations in the United States have remained mostly unchanged,” notes the forum program as a way of framing the discussion of pending national legislation.
There are two bills under consideration by congress now, the Sessions Bill and the Feinstein Collins Bill. Though, the later would need to be reintroduced to remain viable. And Pamela Jo Busiek, CEO of ICMAD, believes that the bill “will likely see changes if it is [reintroduced] because of the current DC climate.”
An obvious difference between the two bills is that the Feinstein Collins bill includes a ‘do no harm threshold’ for ingredient safety, while the Sessions bill would maintain the ‘no unreasonable risk of harm’ standard.
According to Craig Weiss, president of the Consumer Product Testing Company, who also spoke at the regulatory forum, the ‘do no harm’ safety clause in the Feinstein Collins Bill is cost prohibitive because of the extent of testing that would be required to prove ‘no harm’.
To generalize, the cosmetics and personal care industry wants any legislation passed to be practical and premised upon by sound science. As Busiek sees it, to get this done, “the industry needs to reunite, big and small, to educate our lawmakers.”
“To the FTC ‘all natural’ means no synthetic ingredients,” explained Deborah Marrone, assistant director of the Northeastern region for the Federal Trade Commission. While the “FDA is in the process of defining ‘natural’,” Annie M. Ugurlayan, senior staff attorney with the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council, reminded the audience.
Ugurlayan went on to emphasize that ‘all natural’ is an absolute claim, while ‘natural’ is context specific.
Jennifer Malloy, senior counsel at Guthy-Renker suggested visiting this site for a better understanding of natural and organic beauty.
Introducing a panel about building and maintaining brand reputation Blinkoff, quipped, “you don’t plan for a crisis when you’re having a crisis.”
The ‘When Things Go Wrong’ panel comprised Sanjiv Mehra, CEO of eos; Svetlana Walker, senior corporate counsel at Clorox; Crayton Webb, vice president of corporate communications and CSR at Mary Kay; and Liz Sears Smith, Managing Director at public relations firm Kent Strategies.
Walker outlined the three principles her team uses in a crisis situation. She explained how they “assess the real impact,” “convene a team,” and determine, “is third-party input needed?”
Sometimes what looks like a brand crisis can be managed by simply “[correcting] misinformation in a non-defensive manner and [refocusing] the dialog on the positive,” says Walker.
The brands generally agreeded that having a good company reputation, built around product, CSR, and philanthropy is a good policy. And that running a periodic brand perception survey can be helpful.
While Smith advised brands to “look beyond, PR, social media, and lobbying to build your company’s reputation.” Her firm Kent Strategies works with brands to develop sturdy reputations through many channels including thought leadership, event, and board strategies.