Its name is a mouthful, but the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization’s vision is succinct: “a vibrant product safety community exchanging information, ideas, and emerging trends” in which every “sector of the community is valued and given opportunity for participation.”
Leading this organization is Belinda May, a partner at Dentons, who was named ICPHSO’s president in April. She is already making her impact felt. In May, she presented industrial stakeholders’ perspectives at the North America Consumer Product Safety Summit, hosted by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in conjunction with Health Canada and Mexico-Profeco in Washington, D.C.
May recently talked about her involvement with the organization and what she wants to accomplish.
Can you talk about what you want to emphasize as president of ICPHSO?
Because we’re really good about stakeholder inclusion, we want to make sure that we have the right voices on panels and participation and committees. So I asked how can we take this thing to the next level?
I decided to look at the stats on participation on my panels. I found we had gaps. And though we had a 30 percent participation rate or thereabouts with women, we did not do well with respect to persons of color, age, disability, etc. So, I decided to create this inclusion initiative that I launched during Pride Month in June to overwhelming support from multiple countries and from multiple stakeholders.
I wish I could say I had a great big vision for how it would mushroom. I didn’t. I just thought it would be a good idea to put our money where our mouth is in our mission statement and take stakeholder inclusion to the human level.
You also want to focus on innovative product process standards. Can you explain that?
It means that technology is moving faster than regulators can regulate safe products. There is no way that the historic model of regulating on a product by product basis will ever catch up with the velocity of change. You can’t do that now. We’re going too fast. And I’m very happy to report to you that at our next big meeting in Brussels in November, we will absolutely have an open forum task force on this topic.
How did you first get involved with this kind of work and with ICPSHO?
It was kind of by accident. I clerked for the Missouri Chief Justice on the state Supreme Court. I loved that job and in a lot of ways it shaped where I wanted to go.
I became a litigator in St. Louis, and I quickly realized that I liked regulatory much better than litigation because litigation seemed to me so formalistic and ergo took way too much time to get the job done.
I was immediately drawn to regulatory work because I could see the results more quickly. And then the more and more I got immersed in consumer products, the more I began to see that what really I was drawn to was the end of the life cycle.
I went to ICPHSO in 2005. And it was a very different organization back then. It was so much smaller. And I started doing committee work. And one thing led to another and then next thing you know I’m on the board. And the next thing you know I’m on the executive committee.
Being president of such an organization must be a huge time commitment. How did your election fly with your colleagues?
The one thing I told my senior paralegal that I would never become president. I said, ‘Don’t worry. Don’t worry. I won’t get in line to be president. Don’t worry, I won’t do that to us.’ And then I had to make the phone call to say, ‘Hey, you know how I said I would not do that? Yeah. So, I just did that.’
When I got elected to the executive board, I went to my leadership and I’m like, ‘Hey, you know what? This is going to take a lot of time. And I’m not doing this if you guys are going to hold this over my head.’ And it the exact opposite. I have received support every step of the way.