Douglas Troutman has worked at the intersection of public policy, government, and advocacy on behalf of the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) for so long that he can carry on a deep and invested discussion from just about anywhere.
Case in point: Troutman, in the middle of moving his daughter to start her PhD graduate school work, settled into the patio furniture section of a store while his wife and daughter picked out new room furnishings to discuss his career, his leadership, and the role ACI is playing in creating meaningful policy for the future of cleaning product innovation.
It’s easy to understand why Troutman is where he is. Amidst patio umbrellas and various grilling apparatuses, he’s able to get into the weeds of what matters most to his role.
“I think a key aspect of my engagement is a commitment to the whole team and this drive to be the most truthful, authentic person you can be,” explains the current general counsel, corporate secretary, and senior vice president of government affairs. “I’ve always thought there is a very valuable place for people to serve in a capacity that keeps and creates good jobs for hardworking people like the cleaning products industry does.”
Troutman, who has been part of ACI and its previous iteration as the Soap and Detergent Association since 2007, recalls one his proudest moments in the space: helping create policy that was added to the Toxic Substances Control Act, which would play a key role in the legislation moving forward in Congress in 2016.
Additionally, Troutman and his team helped develop forward-ingredient labeling legislation for the State of California, a successful effort that the attorney is working to advance at the federal level.
“The cleaning products industry is really fighting in a competitive space to figure out how to advance and speed product innovations to market,” he says. “It’s my job to bring a multitude of stakeholders together to find that compromise that makes sense for everyone.”
Finding that balance can be increasingly tricky, especially in what seems like an ever-widening gap in Washington, DC, but Troutman says the labor of drafting policy is what keeps him invested and excited after all these years.
“A lot of the time, it can feel like writing poetry, almost like a haiku,” he says. “You have to find the perfect language and the right connections so that all parties can interpret policy the way you think it should be. It needs to be crystal clear and able to stand on its own for five, ten, or even twenty years. That economy of words and precision is always a big challenge for me, but it’s also fun.”
Sustainability is also a leading priority for ACI, including its goal for the industry to achieve net zero emissions. The association also challenges its membership to align their goals with the 1.5°C Challenge, which strives for net-zero global emissions by 2050.
Internally, Troutman says he’s also incredibly proud of how ACI has tackled issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Along with developing a designated team to tackle DEI, he says that there are always advances to be made and that he views ACI as an organization that has truly stepped up and embraced its role in this space.
“Those fundamentals of serving, supporting, and encouraging each other are pillars that are part of this organization,” he says. “There are always areas where we know we can improve, but we will continue seeking new ways to solve issues and have those conversations that need to be had. I think ACI is an organization that has really done it right.”
When it comes to policy and legislation, not every day is going to be an easy one. Troutman admits there are days when it can feel “like pushing spaghetti uphill.” But, as a multiple Ironman event competition competitor and finisher, the SVP keeps a few sayings near his desk that can help ground him, reset, and be, what he calls, “100 percent Doug.”
“My favorite saying is that the only person who says you can’t is you, and you don’t have to listen,” he explains. “Sometimes you have to step away and realize that you’ll be able to handle this better after a little time has passed. But ultimately, you just have to keep envisioning that next goal and work toward it. You may get turned around or set back, but just keep making those little goals for yourself and moving forward because you can and you will.”
Maybe more of us should have conversations in the patio furniture section.