Last week we were able to witness a unique occurrence. Stewardship Agencies representing over ten programs across nine provinces held “consultation” meetings for the companies (stewards or producers) they represent and who effectively pay their salaries.
The meetings included; summaries of this past years’ accomplishments, program changes that will impact companies stewards, and most important, fee updates that help companies with budget planning for next year.
These sessions are an opportunity for the agencies to show they are there to assist the obligated/paying companies and provide informative, clear, and transparent information. They also provide stewards an opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns regarding upcoming proposed changes.
From our perspective, representing many companies at these sessions, some agencies performed well and others….not so much. Here we present our version of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”.
Éco Entreprises Québec (EEQ) set the standard this year for company communications. Earlier last week they had in person meetings in Montreal with English translation and then followed up with an in person meeting in Toronto. EEQ has historically travelled to Toronto to provide information directly to Ontario based stewards and this should be commended given some stewards’ pay as much or more to EEQ as they do in any other province.
EEQ continues to be active in working with municipalities and service providers to implement best practices and create a healthy dialogue with those “running the programs”. EEQ has also made significant investments in glass processing improvements over the past year that will help to reduce costs and increase diversion for years to come.
EEQ continues to provide information and support to companies in reporting assistance and guidance and have long been considered by the companies that have to deal with multiple agencies as the “cream of the crop”. At this session they signalled two important changes for companies to pay attention to, and a consultation process for feedback and input from companies.
- First is the expansion of the scope of packaging and printed material to include businesses that receive curbside service in Quebec. While some might see this as a step towards paying more fees, EEQ committed that the cost calculation does not change as the costs being covered by EEQ includes residential and small business establishments. They now want the additional packaging and printed paper consumed in these small businesses to be added to quantities reported by the producers. They are not sure how they are going to manage this process and have struck a working committee and are asking for input from companies.
- The second change EEQ signalled was the beginning of a process to investigate if other environmental factors might be considered in future fee setting activities. We wonder if they are talking about recycled content or even carbon. This could be an interesting process and worthy of companies’ attention in the coming months.
Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance (CSSA) hosted their annual consultation to provide updates on the four provincial programs they support. CSSA’s approach over the years has been less than transparent and open with companies. Last year at this time, they failed to tell companies they were introducing an Adjustment Policy that dramatically impacted companies’ rights, done without consultation – “just administrative changes” they told the respective provincial boards.
This years’ annual meeting was focused on the new fee setting mechanism that is more accurate and reflective of material costs that they are implementing for the 2017 fees for three of the four provinces. A 10 minute video was shown that tried to communicate the reality all programs face in the challenges of allocating the share of costs across different materials in municipal recycling programs – this will become the focus for ongoing research in the coming year. No doubt what CSSA is doing is difficult for many to understand and even more difficult to communicate. But in person attendees had lots of discussions on this after the formal presentation and one attendee was saying “if material cost allocation data is the most important data input to the new fee setting formula, why are they only looking at this now?”.
This new fee setting approach has the effect of lowering the fee rates of many materials but dramatically increasing the rates for most plastics. Most of the questions from the audience spoke to the confusion companies still have about the entire fee setting process. This is best illustrated in British Columbia, where the highest plastic material fee rates in Canada in 2016, almost doubled for 2017. This confusion was further compounded when the MMBC speaker could not clearly address a question from the audience about why the final fees were so dramatically different than earlier projections. Also missing was clarity about what happens in Ontario if the Minister approves the new fee setting methodology. Will Stewardship Ontario keep the fees as posted for the full 2017 year? If not, that will have dramatic implications for companies in 2017.
From the perspective of our clients, CSSA remains behind EEQ in terms of steward support and customer service. This appears to have been recognized with the hiring of two senior CSSA steward relations staff in the last few months, but this gesture was damaged by their unfair and retroactive Adjustment Policy.
Product Care Association (PCA) held their member update webinar for the multiple programs they oversee. Some highlights include the new member/service focused PCA website to help streamline the process for members with obligated material under PCA’s programs. PCA also commented on changes in provincial legislation, consideration of new program designation, as well as meaningful policy changes. Each speaker included important details about program performance, namely financial outlook and where they are on collection targets.
With a number of programs operating in deficit, proposing fee increases, or under penalty, it was exceedingly surprising that provincial program updates, were completed in record time – from start to finish the webinar lasted less than an hour – for multiple programs.
Also–PCA will not be posting the presentation to allow members to digest this “fire hose” of information at their own rate. In this day and age, this lack of transparency is frankly, incredible.
While PCA has taken some care to improve the website for member use, the member update presentation was rushed with important details glossed over.
Throughout the year, most companies who pay stewardship fees have little direct contact with the agencies that represent them. These annual meetings are a key opportunity to demonstrate value and customer service – as we saw and heard last week, some do it much better than others.