Trade associations have been a vital proponent of the U.S. industry since the first one was established in 1768. Currently, there are over 7,600 national trade associations. It is not uncommon for companies to be confused as to which organizations to join.
BI has been an active member of several trade associations for more than 30 years. Today, many of our employees hold key positions, so we understand all aspects that must be taken into consideration when choosing one. Below is a brief step-by-step process to follow.
1.) Find one whose mission and purpose matches yours. Although associations may be in the same industry, they all do not play the same role; they usually address different facets of the industry. For instance, both the American Botanical Council (ABC) and the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) focus on herbs and botanicals, but ABC specializes more in education and research while AHPA is more invested in the regulation and safety of herbs and botanicals. Due to these varying functions, do not limit yourself to just one. If an organization is beneficial to your company, join it; they are not mutually exclusive. BI is a member of several, including ABC and AHPA, since education, research, regulation, and safety are all important to us.
2.) After finding one (or more) that matches your purpose, make sure it is reputable. A reputable organization not only means a legitimate and well-respected one, but it also means exclusivity. There should be reasonable requirements to be a member. Quality members are better than the quantity of members. Exclusivity reinforces purpose. Remember, there is a reason it is called a trade association, not just an association.
3.) Consider the resources it offers. List them and determine if it is well-rounded enough. A trade association should contribute to both your company and the industry’s growth. First, it should have a good network of connections. Second, it should provide access to expert advice and information through a variety of channels, such as newsletters and white papers. Lastly, it should be on top of industry news, issues, and trends while providing hubs, such as conferences and workshops, for you to discuss and learn from your peers. For example, BI’s vice president of global quality & compliance—and one of AHPA’s board of trustees, Rupa Das—will be presenting on the many valuable analytical tools that can be used for positive identification of herbal ingredients at the 2014 AHPA Botanical Congress.
4.) Gauge its influence in the industry, as well as the realms that affect the industry, such as academia and government. For instance, when USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) took the position in 2004 that herbal supplements could not be labeled as “organic” under the NOP, AHPA strongly disagreed and actively pursued a reversal of this misguided view, which was ultimately overturned. This corrected decision by the NOP led directly to today’s robust market for organic herbal products.
5.) Once you choose the right trade association to join, be active. As with anything, you get what you give.