We recently learned that the Healthy Building Network (HBN), a group with a self-described mission to “phase-out PVC building products,” is developing a new subscription research program on the PVC supply chain, including chlorine and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM). Ironically -- some might say brazenly – HBN is seeking support from the PVC industry to fund it.
HBN has a long, undeniable history of distorting the facts on PVC. We’ve documented them here, here, here, and here. The group’s statements and baseless claims against our industry have revealed an extraordinary lack of factual understanding and credibility regarding important matters involving PVC.
Take, for example, HBN’s emphasis on global chlor-alkali processes, some of which around the world use asbestos and mercury during production. These processes are heavily regulated and have been proven safe. But HBN has falsely claimed our industry is responsible for the majority of asbestos use in the United States. That, however, is not true, as some 80 percent of chlor-alkali production is used in a wide array of non-PVC products – including pharmaceuticals, water treatment, food additives, and other building material products. In fact, the major use of asbestos today on a global basis is cement-asbestos board building materials and large diameter concrete drainage and sewer pipe. In the United States, the use of asbestos in these materials has been discontinued decades ago, while other parts of the world still allow it.
Despite these facts, HBN continues to advance inaccurate information in the discourse about our industry. We’ve corrected them before, yet they repeatedly deceive the public. Which raises a rather obvious question in the context of the group’s current research endeavor: If HBN truly cares about “accelerating the sun-setting of some high hazard substances,” as it has stated, why is it exclusively fixated on PVC? And what does that say about the group’s ability to be remotely independent about the way they collect, curate and present their findings on PVC?
What it tells us is that HBN has little interest in advancing the facts, and may be motivated more by establishing ways to profit off its anti-PVC campaigns – something we’ve exposed before here on VinylVerified.
It should surprise no one that under HBN’s proposed subscriber agreement, participating organizations would provide information to the group to use as HBN sees fit. This means that information volunteered as part of a good faith effort to build a better business could be used to further HBN’s ideological agenda – one openly hostile to the continued use of PVC products.
We should also point out that the data HBN seeks to collect, and have our industry finance, already exists. IHS Markit, an independent, third-party organization with no ulterior or hidden agenda, conducts global assessments of the PVC resin, vinyl chloride monomers, and chlor-alkali industry. And IHS Markit provides companies with unbiased data, contrary to what HBN would likely deliver.
Make no mistake: This purported olive branch by HBN is nothing more than an attempt to gain access and influence the decisions of our industry, and advance HBN’s broader mission to remove PVC from the marketplace. It is a common tactic used by many activist organizations. It should be noted that HBN’s founder, Bill Walsh, is a Greenpeace alum – a group that has used many of the same maneuvers to achieve its ends, often at great expense to companies that choose to partner with them in good faith.
This isn’t about information. It’s about intimidation. HBN needs to prove that it is a responsible group committed to an open and transparent process that recognizes the industry’s achievements and focuses on continuous performance improvement, rather than eliminating the PVC industry. This approach would help contributors be assured their money is being spent in good faith.