Compliance: The Need For An Industry Standard
Being a distributor in today's business environment is challenging. They must build creative programs while meeting pricing pressures and shorter delivery times—all with exceptional customer service (and a smile). But the sales cycle has become even more complex due to the variety of compliance expectations from end-buyer customers.
Because there is a difference in content and format for these customer-specific requirements, distributors are required to create a new and unique response to each compliance request. To make matters worse, many end-buyers are not familiar with the compliance requirements for the products they purchase. As a result, they often default to requesting testing reports on products that may not have established criteria to meet other than how much lead is in the decoration. The absence of a clearly defined and adopted industry standard for compliance is creating havoc and confusion—along with additional costs—for everyone.
As an industry, it is imperative that we create a standard for product safety and compliance. And it is our responsibility to define and communicate this standard, or we will forever be condemned to chase the clients' moving target.
How do we go about setting a standard? There are several industries we could emulate. Through its creation of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) in 1975, the toy industry has been working for decades to harmonize standards and get in front of these issues. For example, it established CARE—Caring, Awareness, Responsible and Ethical—an ethical manufacturing program aimed at ensuring safe and humane workplace environments for toy factory workers worldwide. Another example is the American Apparel and Footwear Association's WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certification.
Both these industries recognized the benefits of a consistent standard, and multiple companies came together to create voluntary requirements. Over time, these standards, plus a set of accepted methods for evaluation and validation, became the recognized benchmark that all companies—including their customers—use to manage the process.
The promotional products industry is faced with a similar challenge, and we have a great opportunity to create our own standard by following models like these. PPAI has been working diligently to create awareness and education on product safety requirements, and the association continues to engage with the CPSC, elected officials and other organizations to ensure our industry is an active participant in the compliance conversation.
As an important next step, PPAI has created a forum for those of us most impacted by inbound compliance requests: the inaugural PPAI Product Safety Summit. Scheduled for Wednesday, August 10 in Denver, this one-day event is dedicated for industry leaders to explore the product safety issues currently impacting the promotional products marketplace as well as business implications and challenges associated with compliance.
It is essential for our industry leaders to come together and develop an industry standard before that standard is defined and imposed upon us by outside governmental or regulatory organizations. If your livelihood depends on the continued survival and growth of our industry, you can't you afford to miss the groundbreaking PPAI Product Safety Summit. See you in Denver.
Brent Stone is executive director - operations for Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the promotional products industry's only independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping companies provide safe products. A Six Sigma Black Belt, Stone has more than 25 years of in-depth supply chain management experience with extensive expertise in process design, development, improvement and management. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.qcalliance.org for more information.