getting our period panties in a twist

Hey - this is a super surreal time. 

I don't mean to send you something that doesn't acknowledge the uncertainty or anxiety that you may be feeling - and I'll say that I am ~definitely~ feeling it. 

It [*sort of*] calms me to "just keep swimming" and push forward, experimenting in the background as we social distance and gaze lazily at our towers of toilet paper, hoping for a glimmer of confidence. 

In the interim, I welcome your feedback and I'm glad to have you as a beta reader. On this end, I'm not promoting this widely yet, and may not for a while. 

And if you are automatically archiving - omg, totally get it!

And of you aren't - Jon Shell has a great Medium post - 9 Things Canadian Governments Can Do to Avoid a “Social Distancing” Economic Tragedy.

A helpful suggestion from fellow beta reader *James [not a pseudonym!] - he’d like a little bit of Table of Contents (ToC) action up front. James, this Bud’s for you:

  1. 💡 Quick case study of a 🇨🇦 company’s policy opportunities - Knix! 👙

  2. 🏆 Shouting out policy leadership from tech firms. 🎖️

  3. 📚 Legislative pages = book time. This week it’s a work of fiction that involves zombies. 🧟

  4. 🚀 Space policy - Getting galactic to the moon + back 🛰️

I’m not loving all the emojis, but I am taking it one day at a time.

💡 case study: knix

ICYMI, knix has a change.org petition to get period panties regulated - you should sign it!

I like knix’s products a lot (shout out to thigh savers!), and admire that the company is demonstrating policy leadership and advocating for better consumer protection in the industry. After reading this white paper, it seems like a no-brainer.

From a business perspective, this makes a lot of sense, too - there have been a lot of new entrants to the market that each make various claims about being “leakproof” but there’s no way to verify or standardize that. Plus, it’s a pretty porous area of the bod to be putting harmful chemicals near.

Knix started pioneering this new kind of intimate ~7 years ago in 2013, but I don’t think we should be concerned that it’s taken them this long to ask for better regulation of the industry. I mean, how often do companies call for regulation, anyways? We should also be asking ourselves (as policymakers) how we should or could have responded to this new product to ensure that is is safe.

Hold up: is knix a start up? I say: yes! It’s a scrappy, growing company that started as online-only.

So, their petition targets the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which is a U.S. government agency, to demand stronger regulations for all period underwear.

In an interview with Fast Company, knix CEO Joanna Griffiths proposed two potential avenues for regulation:

  1. First, a third-party institution, like a university, could establish guidelines about what constitutes safety when it comes to period underwear, and then independently certify the safety of products. 

  2. Secondly, brands could ask to be included in regulations relating to the wider period-product category.

Griffiths also makes the case that it would be beneficial for third parties to verify marketing claims that period underwear brands make, but she doesn’t clarify which third parties those would be. Do you have any sense?

For the time being, many brands promise their products are “leak proof,” “stain resistant,” “anti-microbial,” or “anti-odor” but they don’t need to back up their claims with any verification, or explain what ingredients or materials they are using to imbue their products with these features.

What would it take - at least in Canada - to make this regulatory conversation more sophisticated and set a clear standard? Initial conversations with a range of bodies:

  • The Canadian Standards Association is a standards association which develops standards in 57 areas. It’s accredited by the Standards Council of Canada, a crown corporation which promotes efficient and effective standardization. However, most of the standards are voluntary, meaning that there are no laws requiring their application. Despite that, adherence to standards is beneficial to companies because it shows that products have been independently tested to meet certain standards.

  • The Consumers Association of Canada also seems like it could be a productive vehicle. It’s an independent, national, not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization with a mandate is to inform and educate consumers on marketplace issues, to advocate for consumers with government and industry, and to work with government and industry to solve marketplace problems. That said, the best advocates will be people that purchase and wear leakproof underwear.

  • The Canadian Textile Industry Association represents Canada’s primary textile producers – a group of innovative manufacturing companies producing high-quality, value-added textiles. Right now, it doesn’t seem that knix is manufacturing in Canada, but it would still be good to get input from this group. The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) could be a part of this work as well.

  • Health Canada provides national leadership to develop health policy, enforces health regulations, promotes disease prevention and enhances healthy living for all Canadians. Health Canada also works closely with other federal departments, agencies and health stakeholders to reduce health and safety risks to Canadians. Beyond consumers and setting new standards, health is a key feature here because of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are often on the inside layers of the crotch of “period panties.” Some PFAS are associated with cancer, decreased immune response to vaccines, decreased fertility, and more. Exposure to PFAS at even the lowest concentrations has been shown to harm human health.

  • The Canadian General Standards Board (CGSB) Provides standards development and conformity assessment services, including programs for certification of products and services, registration of quality and environmental management systems, and related services. These services are provided in support of economic, regulatory, procurement, health, safety and environmental interests. 

  • The Competition Bureau provides advice on mandatory labelling requirements and voluntary guidelines for the marketing of consumer products.

  • What else? The Textile Labelling Act is a regulatory statute for the accurate and meaningful labelling of consumer textile articles. Now we’re wonking. In the case of period panties, we have a bunch of different precedents when it comes to regulating textiles but most of this is around flammability.

With knix, regs offer riches because they will help differentiate the company’s products from harmful wannabes.

PS. If you’re feeling fired up about consumer protection, the provincial government recently announced Consultations to Update the Consumer Protection Act - legislation that hasn’t been reviewed in 15 years. You can complete the online survey at ontario.ca/ConsumerReview or sign up to participate in future consultations by emailing consumerpolicy@ontario.ca.

🏆 policy leader(s) - classpass + CMHC

There have been cheers in the Twittersphere after Amazon suspended the accounts of people that have been profiteering from reselling toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and cleaning wipes. Many other major platforms have made similar announcements:

This week, Classpass gets a shout out for doing the right thing, quickly. Waiving cancellation fees and rolling over credits are simple (but expensive *for them) consumer-focused changes that will help prevent people from rushing to work out during this new era of social distancing.

Back in Canada, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (Canada’s National Housing Agency) championed collaborating with mortgage professionals in order to deal with any potential mortgage payment difficulties.

It will be interesting to understand what the uptake on this proposal winds up looking like, and whether mortgage deferrals were a financial lifeline in 2020. I am also curious to know how they are promoting this option, and whether mortgage brokers will be proactively advising on this option. Flagging for future follow-up.

📚 zombie brains

This week, the read isn’t about tech directly but instead: pandemics. My suggestion is to (re?) read World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by American author Max Brooks (2006) as it’s a pretty excellent policy book, even though it’s comedic fiction. Here’s a recent interview with him.

The novel is a collection of individual accounts narrated by an agent of the United Nations Postwar Commission, following the devastating global conflict against the zombie plague.

WWZ offers political satire that made me think more deeply about how we share information and what our news sources are, especially in times of crisis. In the book, different countries respond….in unique ways For instance, one country’s economy does very well because they quickly remove everyone’s teeth. Can you guess which one?

The zombie plague starts as all plagues tend to—slow and steady. China has a mild outbreak of zombie that spreads out into the world through various routes: refugees, black market organs, human trafficking, and the undead simply shuffling about. Many countries ignore the news of the dead rising up from the grave with a ravenous hunger for human flesh (does this sound familiar?), but others, such as Israel, take the threat seriously and begin zombie-proofing their borders.

Sadly, WWZ was left out of this list of “essential” Pandemic reading.

*Max has a new book coming out in May that you can pre-order: Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre.

🚀 space policy

You can see the impact of coronavirus from space thanks to this company: Orbital Insight. Also, astronauts are taking precautions to keep coronavirus from spreading to space (someone’s gotta). BTW, does anyone remember consenting to being surveilled by unmanned aerial vehicle images?

The United Nations' Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) has cancelled the meeting of its legal subcommittee in Vienna that was set to happen. What a rad committee.

What else? Please see my new favourite website: spacepolicyonline.com. Last week I asked you about the Lunar Gateway. Well, guess what? The Gateway is No Longer Mandatory for 2024 Moon Landing!

Alex Cameron wrote the latest “Killers” single, so I am including it.

Share regs to riches

This is my MVP of a weekly read on startups and public policy [mostly] in Canada. If you are reading it, you may be a BETA reader (thanks!).

Send me your thoughts on how it can be improved so that it’s more relevant to you.