AHAM Canada – A Strategic Decision
Two years ago AHAM implemented a strategic decision to open an office in Canada. For the most part, the home appliance market in Canada is similar to the U.S. in terms of products and retail environment. And most pertinent to AHAM’s mission, the public policy framework in both countries is also very similar: energy efficiency, product safety, and environmental impacts. Companies on both sides of the border wanted the same AHAM member value proposition in providing advocacy and intelligence on these broad industry issues.
The key to AHAM’s effectiveness in Canada is the same as in the U.S. Our member organization is designed to engage members across all product lines so that AHAM’s voice is informed and effective. While AHAM members in both countries participate in the same membership divisions based on product, AHAM’s overall priorities in Canada are overseen by our Canada Council, the chair of which sits on the AHAM board of directors. Members sit on the same councils and divisions to establish strategy and tactics by product and issue.
The AHAM Canada Council sets the priorities for our work in Canada, and the council chair sits on the AHAM board of directors. And our staff structure provides a matrix approach by issue or service so whether in Canada or the U.S. we come to the table with facts and the backing of an important part of the economy. Our two-person Ottawa office is headed by Bruce Rebel, an industry veteran.
The goal of AHAM’s advocacy efforts in Canada is, to the extent possible, a harmonized regulatory and standards environment in the U.S. and Canada for home appliances related to energy efficiency and product safety. While NRCan is committed to harmonize its energy efficiency regulations with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), it does have different regulatory procedures, which sometimes results in differing requirements for the same products in each country. While the gaps in uniformity may be temporary, they nonetheless can cause confusion and disruption in the market.
A good example is the new U.S. appliance efficiency standards rolling out this year and next. The new U.S. refrigerator/freezer standard went into effect in September as did new ENERGY STAR requirements. In addition to the significant leap in energy efficiency embodied in these requirements, DOE bases them on a new test procedure. Testing temperatures for the refrigeration and freezing compartments have changed to be more in line with consumer usage and international testing protocols. And the procedure now accounts for energy used by automatic ice makers. The problem is Canada has not adopted these changes. This affected the Energy Guide labels on the products, manufacturer testing requirements, etc. This problem is also occurring with forthcoming clothes washer requirements.
Canada recognizes this but is employing a stop gap “cross walk” between the regulatory regimes until they can finalize new standards and test procedures.
In addition to ongoing communications with regulators in both countries, AHAM has been actively working with the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council (RCC) to solve this market disruption.
AHAM also has a major effort underway in the U.S. and Canada to improve the voluntary safety standards for home appliances. The nearly dozen safety standards proposals developed by AHAM’s technical committees were submitted simultaneously to UL and to CSA. AHAM has met with both the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Health Canada to highlight this proactive effort.
Another issue the appliance industry is engaged in both north and south of the border is what we refer to as Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). It involves shifting the responsibility and cost of product disposal and recycling from municipalities or even the private waste management industry to product brand owners. What is the same in Canada and the U.S. is the issue is addressed at the state or provincial level as opposed to the federal government. But it has advanced in Canada as a regulatory issue much more so than in the U.S. In British Columbia for example, home appliances are included with many other consumer products under mandatory provincial waste regulations requiring brand owners to develop and oversee recycling programs. No state in the U.S. has yet approved a mandatory program for home appliances.
For major appliances, the reason the states have not lumped home appliances in with other products subjected to mandatory programs is that these products are handled quite well without the need for governmental intervention. With recycling rates well over 90% for major appliances, a governmental program would only be sure to lower this rate. Our message is that the marketplace provides an effective appliance recycling and disposal network and the data supports this. But if mandatory rules are made, we want to ensure they allow for efficiencies and recognize that consumers have responsibilities too. AHAM’s set of principles will guide how our industry engages with provinces that move to mandatory programs. For more, visit www.AHAMCanada.ca