Editorial: One Industry Voice - Harmony or Discord?

By Len Monheit
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Examining industry releases over the past several weeks, one finds headlines such as ‘CRN Expands Outreach to Congress’ or ‘…. responds to GMP’s’. It becomes quite apparent that groups are working on behalf of the industry in a consistent dialogue with regulators, media, scientists and others to support and improve the sector and its ability to contribute to and support consumer health.

In addition to trade association actions and activities, consumer groups such as Citizens for Health are working diligently to ensure consumer interests are represented and heard and on top of this, other organizations such as The Healthy Foundation and The Dietary Supplement Education Alliance (DSEA) are doing work with and communicating on behalf of the industry. Each group has its own support mechanism, identity, objectives and mission for its constituency. Yet all are part of a total effort to promote health and wellbeing.

These are times that call for action and activity, to challenge convictions and misperceptions and to fight at many levels to preserve the essence of an industry and help to guide it into an uncertain future. The collective mission statement of the industry may involve statements such as ‘freedom of choice’, ‘strong markets’, ‘responsible marketing’, ‘enhancing confidence’, ‘higher standards of quality’, ‘reaching out to media, healthcare professionals, decision makers and consumers’, objectives that most , if not all will agree with, if not actively espouse. There are potential benefits from having several pressure points at work, disseminating information and communicating - providing the message is both simple and consistent.

This industry has often been accused of fragmentation with no single voice, and there may be some truth to this observation. One of our industry realities is that the we are composed of such diverse companies with such a range of products, that no single association or group covers the entire constituency base and no voice is truly the ‘industry voice’. Yet at last month’s Newport Summit, industry leaders were told that they needed to speak with one voice to improve the industry’s image - a challenging prospect. The situation is made even more complicated by inertia, apathy and in too many cases, lack of active involvement from those these groups would propose to represent. How can industry have one voice if it’s speaking with shattered vocal chords?

It’s very easy to criticize and say , ‘Why is this happening and what’s the association doing?’ or ‘How come we didn’t know this was coming?’ and ‘What are you going to do now?’ at the same time as you yourself are overwhelmed and wrestling with company challenges required to compete in today’s business environment. Collectively, at some level, many feel relief that there is someone out there, lobbying government, interpreting regulations and challenging the media – so they don’t have to.

Whichever constituency you belong to, whatever your history and circumstance, there has never been a more important time to be aware, to be involved and to add your voice to the collective industry voice by actively participating and supporting these groups. As you participate in industry events, as you read industry publications, as you plan for your future and that of your company, consider carefully the work being done on your behalf by these groups and associations. Consider too the contribution you and your organization could make as well as the risk you face of you are not part of this process.

I confess that I don’t understand the nuances and details of lobbying efforts and the amount of behind the scenes work involved to get ears and attention of those who must be reached. I can only imagine the patience with which such efforts must be employed and understand the frustration which must accompany intention and efforts. And over the past few years, with increasing financial pressures, difficult times for the industry as it has been repeatedly bombarded by media, government and other opponents and critics, there are individuals who have worked tirelessly on behalf of the industry, often with little obvious success, and few small victories to keep themselves and their staff motivated in a larger war.

Kudos to these and other groups working diligently (Editor’s Note: This is partial list only. If there are other groups that should be listed, we salute them.):

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