Influencing the Influencers

By Tom Cook, President, National Renderers Association

“The saying, ‘What a difference a year makes’ couldn’t be any truer than now as we begin a new year. Since a year ago, we have seen dramatic changes both politically and economically.

“It is difficult to look into the crystal ball and predict the future with any assurances. It will be a challenging year for the National Renderers Association (NRA), as it will be for its member companies. But I am regularly reminded that with challenges come opportunities.”

This is how I started this column two years ago following the outcome of the 2008 presidential elections. My feelings are the same after the recent 2010 mid-term elections.

It has been a rollercoaster ride the last two years. The United States has seen “Obamacare,” financial reform, a major overhaul in U.S. food safety laws, and a tax extenders bill, all that might have a direct or indirect impact on the rendering industry. Not addressed was cap and trade, card check, any free trade agreements, or a settlement of the Mexican trucking dispute. These too would have had an impact on the rendering industry.

There won’t be much cap and trade or card check legislation coming from the new 112th Congress; however, the climate has improved to see some pending free trade agreements approved. President Barack Obama has also moved toward resolving the Mexican trucking dispute, probably against union wishes.

The emphasis with this new session of Congress will be to cut spending. Just about every candidate in the last election ran on some kind of platform that would reduce the U.S. deficit by cutting spending. This is an easier campaign slogan than it is an actual deed.

There are 112 new members in the House of Representatives and Senate of the new 112th Congress. This large turnover will cause some things to move more slowly than normal at the beginning. Many of the new representatives are truly novices and will have a steeper learning curve than others.

When I think of this new Congress, I think of the NRA annual fly-in. Its importance has been emphasized every year, and its significance will be no different this year. The fly-in has always given the rendering industry an excellent opportunity to tell its story. We have experienced many successes with these congressional visits. But the industry needs to expand its audience. This is not a new idea, just one that has to be revisited. The challenge is how do renderers get their story out to the right audiences with limited resources.

At the recent NRA convention, members expressed the need to tell the industry’s story, partly because renderers have a positive story to tell and should start getting credit for the good they do.

For lack of a better term, for now we’ll call it a render awareness program. The rendering industry has been called the “invisible industry,” the “original recyclers,” and, most recently, the “essential industry.” One thing is for sure, the industry is no longer invisible. However, renderers are still the original recyclers and essential.

Remember the song, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool”? Well, renderers were sustainable when being sustainable wasn’t cool. We need to get that story out and to an audience that is more than just politicians.

Some industries are just beginning to tout their sustainability credentials while politicians and others create incentives for these newcomers to the table. What about industries like rendering that have already been following practices that are now considered sustainable? Shouldn’t renderers get credit for what they are already doing?

The NRA members have decided to form a taskforce to develop a render awareness program. The first task will be to develop a message. We will then further identify and refine the audiences needing to be reached, which will likely include policymakers, customers, media, educators, allied organizations, and others yet to be determined. These groups are the influencers. Our goal will be to “influence the influencers.”

With a clear message and a plan, we will then target the appropriate audiences. Resources are limited and we will need to make sure we get the biggest bang for the buck.

Much can and will be done at the national level. However, the work NRA member renderers do at the local level in their own communities is equally as important. In the late 1990s, the NRA organized a series of regional community relations workshops that were very successful in assisting members to develop their programs at the local level.

I can’t predict what the awareness taskforce will recommend, however, we hope to have some ideas and recommendations to take to the membership at NRA’s annual spring meeting in Toronto, Canada, in early May. Feel free to contact me if you have any ideas or suggestions.

Tom Cook can be reached by e-mail at, or at (703) 683-0155.

From the Association – February 2011 RENDER | back