A Happy Medium
To dabble a bit in the philosophical realm, the term "golden mean" is often applied to the discussion of ethics for the greater good of society. It is said to be the ideal middle ground between two extreme points of view and many of the world's greatest thinkers—from Aristotle to Confucius—have touched upon it in their teachings.
Although the golden mean seems to be a fairly straightforward theory, in practice, it is often much more difficult to strike such a delicate balance. In the promotional products industry, no event proves this point more readily than the passing of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). According to consumers, it is a much-needed, long-awaited reform. However, to some of the suppliers and manufacturers who must adhere to these new rules, middle ground has not yet been found.
The Great Divide
"I think what's happening is you're seeing the pendulum swing right now," said Steven Soep, quality control supervisor at Gordon Industries, New Hyde Park, N.Y. "And, as with all new initiatives, the pendulum tends to swing to the high side and then it comes back down and finds some sort of equilibrium," he added.
This is hope for the set of laws that many in the industry have found to be unreasonable, at best. One of the main concerns is the fact that competing standards still exist, particularly California's Prop 65 which has, to this point, been the most stringent state regulation of lead and other contaminants in consumer products. "If [California] wants to see 70 ppm of lead and the national standard is 90, then we have to set our standard to Prop 65," Soep explained. Products existing in the gray area between 70 ppm and 90 ppm seem to be out of luck.
Other concerns include the fact that the new laws also detail how suppliers must address inventory that had been in-stock prior to the passing of CPSIA, the expense of third-party testing as well as how to plan for a future filled with constantly changing requirements.