Membership

The Delicate Business of Balancing Member Interests

By / Jan 22, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

After a policy dispute, a major corporation plans to leave its industry trade group. How do you strike a balance when two sides collide—and should you?

According to a recent Dow Jones report, Dow Chemical is leaving the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) after a disagreement on liquefied natural gas (LNG) export policy.

Tensions have been running high regarding natural gas exports. Dow Chemical wrote to  the NAM president accusing the group of “siding with member companies that are in the natural gas industry, rather than adopt a ‘position of neutrality on an issue that clearly splits its membership.’” The letter came after NAM posted a statement in support of natural gas exports.

Additionally, Dow Chemical and some other manufacturers launched a coalition that opposes NAM’s position. The group urges the White House to limit the number of LNG exports amid fears that not doing so would raise domestic natural gas prices. NAM and other export supporters say the economic benefits of growing exports would outweigh any price increases.

Michigan-based Dow Chemical is one of the largest chemical manufacturers in the world, while NAM comprises 11,000 manufacturing companies. When two organizations with so much influence in an industry disagree, what happens to the fabric holding them together?

In Dow Chemical’s case, the choice was to sever ties and chastise the association for not keeping neutral. But is an association’s job to stay neutral, if it believes that one policy direction is best for the majority of its members?

Has your association ever pressed an issue or agenda that some of your members didn’t agree with? How did you handle the situation?

Chloe Thompson

Chloe Thompson is a contributing writer to Associations Now. More »

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