Protect and Serve
During the summer of 2007, millions of Chinese-made toys were recalled for lead paint violations and magnet hazards. After the incident made headlines, people in the promotional products industry started to worry.
"There were a number of folks who got together and said, 'Hey, we've got an issue,'" D. Fenton, executive director of compliance for Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), said. "'Potentially our industry is at risk. What's to stop our customer from reaching for a gift card in lieu of a promotional product? So what do we need to do to ensure that our customer feels that we are taking the steps necessary to protect their brand?'"
That concern soon developed into the creation of QCA, a Chicago-based nonprofit that conducts a comprehensive manufacturing compliance accreditation program for promotional product suppliers with a focus on product safety, social accountability, environmental stewardship, product quality and supply-chain security.
The QCA is changing the way some companies do business. Several distributors have vowed to give preference to QCA-certified suppliers (see sidebar on page 24). Suppliers touting a compliant product line can validate these claims by going through QCA's formal accreditation process.
"QCA is not a club," Fenton said. "Anyone can put these policies and procedures in place. You can self-validate that you have effective products and procedures. The difference is that QCA members have subjected their policies and procedures to third-party, independent review."
The QCA accreditation process can be broken down into two main areas. The first step involves extensive self-assessment. This part of the process allows suppliers to find any policy or procedure voids and correct them. Next, one of QCA's third-party inspectors audits the headquarters and supply base. If both reach a certain score, the results are passed on to Fenton and then the board of directors for approval.