PPAI Product Responsibility Summit Tackles Corporate Social Responsibility
The world can be a dangerous place—but the promotional products industry remains determined to ensure it provides safe and responsible products. After attending the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit—the Promotional Products Association International’s (PPAI) single largest education event—Sept. 28 to 30, in Bethesda, Md., we know the future of the industry is in good hands.
“I continue to be impressed with the level of support we receive for [the] Product Responsibility Summit, so I know we are filling a void for accurate, reliable and actionable information on product responsibility, safety and compliance,” said Paul Bellantone, president and CEO of Irving, Texas-based PPAI. “The first day of this year's event highlighted our growing collaboration with the CPSC and their support for PPAI's efforts to create a culture of commitment and confidence around these important issues. With nearly 200 in attendance, representing large and small companies in every membership category, [the] Product Responsibility Summit represents the best of what trade associations can deliver to their members, the industry and ultimately the consumers that use our products.”
A full schedule of educational programming, including lab tours of the nearby U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), kicked off the three-day event. The following morning brought the nearly 200 suppliers and distributors together for a full slate of presentations—beginning with industry regulations, rules and a piggy “squirter” stress reliever (an example of how the advertising of a product can influence whether a product is seen as a toy—and which regulations apply).
From there, discussions shifted to an introduction of the voluntary standards system via case studies of power banks and laundry pods. Focus then turned to how to best prevent, prepare for and deal with a product recall as we listened to the real-world experiences of two companies that had to learn these lessons the hard way. To finish the day, the floor opened for a moderated discussion among all attendees on best practices—from how best to vet partners and monitor production facilities, to the importance of both supplier and distributor communication and education—of product responsibility.
The final day delved into social responsibility, asking and answering questions as to how social performance relates to a company’s business, coming up with actionable steps for both suppliers and distributors to put a compliance program into effect, and looking to the future by thinking of practical ways to help protect their businesses if an issue does arise.
“I am very proud of how PPAI has been a leader in product responsibility,” said Gene Geiger, president and CEO of Lewiston, Maine-based Geiger, chair of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group, and co-chair of the Summit. “In fact, CPSC Chair Elliot F. Kaye told us […] he and his colleagues consider PPAI’s efforts to be the model other industries should follow. There’s a lot more to do, but we sure have made a lot of progress.”
In addition to providing attendees the opportunity to learn from the experience of their industry colleagues and the presenters, the Summit featured a number of highlights, including a personal story from Neil Levitt of Tarzana, California-based I.D. Me Promotions LLC, of how a faulty product had a life-changing effect on his family. Levitt’s tale ensured no one left the event uninspired.
Two other notable highpoints were the opportunities to hear remarks from CPSC Commissioner Ann Marie Buerkle and CPSC Chairman Elliot F. Kaye, both of whom praised PPAI for its hard work and dedication to its mission; spoke to the value of the industry, PPAI and the CPSC working together; and addressed the future issues they see the CPSC focusing on.
“PPAI has once again provided unprecedented access to senior leadership of the Consumer Product Safety Commission and to management guidance from some of the nation's most esteemed and experienced professionals in product safety, regulatory compliance and responsible sourcing,” said Rick Brenner, CEO of Prime Line, Bridgeport, Conn., and chair of the PPAI board. “Through their participation these past three days, the 185 distributor and supplier attendees are clearly on top of the quickly changing landscape of compliance in our industry and the best practices of its most successful companies.”
The attendees’ shoes may still be wet from the downpour that continued on the walk to and from dinner Tues. night, but they have a binder filled with invaluable information on corporate social responsibility, new connections to foster, and plenty of information to digest and put into practice now that they’re back in the office.