QCA Announces New Participation Model

New Plan Expands Engagement With Distributors And End Buyers CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (January 14, 2019) – Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the promotional product industry’s only independent, non-governmental accreditation organization dedicated to helping companies provide safe and responsibly sourced products, launched a restructured participation model and fee structure that is more engaging and inclusive with distributors, suppliers and end-buyers.   While the organization’s overall mission and standards remain the same, this broader structure will give more companies the resources they need to meet buyers’ demands for brand safety, social responsibility and sustainability. “We realized there is considerable opportunity for brand safety to have greater relevance and meet buyer demands through expanded participation on both the supplier and distributor sides,” said Tim Brown, MAS, QCA’s executive director of operations.   The new participation model consists of four categories: End-Buyer Users, Distributor Advocates, Certified Distributors and Decorators, and Accredited Suppliers. The inclusion of direct end-buyer engagement will allow for organizations of all sizes to publicly communicate their expectations to our industry.   QCA has created a fee structure that requires a modest investment from its new group of distributor advocates that will symbolize their commitment to responsible sourcing and send a clear message to industry suppliers about their expectations for transparency and accountability.   Under the new structure, distributors are empowered to collectively have a greater say in their supplier expectations for brand safety and responsible sourcing. Currently, small distributors lack the voice to push suppliers to go above and beyond. However, the new participation model allows a greater number of smaller distributors to collectively have a voice while at the same time enabling distributors and decorators of all sizes to be held to a higher standard through more accountability via certification. “For suppliers to have a robust compliance program, certain costs are simply a part of the deal regardless of if they work with an organization or go it alone,” Brown said. “Realizing this, QCA is working with distributor advocates to help lessen the burden on suppliers. The result is a robust program that not only meets the industry and end-buyer demands but also is affordable and attainable. Getting involved will have more to do with a willingness to do what is right rather than a cost to participate.” “For us to live out our mission and values, it’s essential that we adapt. That’s what this new participation model is all about,”...

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Future Buyers Will Be Change Agents For Tomorrow’s Businesses

Future Buyers Will Be Change Agents For Tomorrow’s Businesses

Takeaways From ISM Direct Conference And How Corporate Social Responsibility Is A Driving Force Behind Changing Buyer Attitudes Marketing, fleet, human resources and other indirect expenses—including promotional products—often don’t receive the same scrutiny as direct ones, even though these costs may comprise 50% of a company’s overall purchases. Each year, ISM Indirect brings together indirect procurement professionals from across industries to explore effective strategies in driving down costs while increasing value. One thing that makes this event special is that teams of students from several different universities were invited to present on supply chain topics. While there were a variety of predetermined topics on which to present, each of the groups chose topics related to sustainability, ethics, social responsibility and environmental protection. These are tomorrow’s buyers, and they made it very clear where they stand on these topics. The next generation of procurement leaders has been raised in a culture that values responsible sourcing, and our industry needs to get more fully on board with this or risk decline in value and interest from the buyers of the future. In fact, this Georgetown University article says that corporate social responsibility is so important to millennials that ignoring it is at your own peril.   Moving Beyond Commodities As with the buyers we spoke to at the AMA Symposium For The Marketing Of Higher Education, there are some overall negative perceptions about promotional products. Part of this perception is due to these buyers are procurement professionals who are not focused on marketing and thus look at branded merchandise as merely a commodity. “Many of the seasoned buyers shared their dislike for the medium based on the ‘cheap’ perception,” says Tim Brown, QCA’s executive director of operations, who attended the event. “Talking with us helped them not only gain insight about the effectiveness of promotional products but also understand what they can do to add more value through the medium. By choosing products with longevity that take up key residence in front of their clients as well as aligning sourcing responsibilities with the other elements of their corporate social responsibility programs, they are able to offer greater brand protections. “What they seemed to like most was that QCA Accredited Suppliers provide an ‘easy button’ of sorts for responsibly sourcing promotional product,” he continues. “The less work these buyers have to do to add value the better, so promotional consultants have a...

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Building Trust Through Compliance

Building Trust Through Compliance

Recognized for its distinctive collection of awards, bags, clocks, drinkware, eco-products, high-tech items, housewares, padfolios, pens, personal care products, recreation items, stationery, tools and watches, Logomark is one of the 14 founding companies that launched QCA a decade ago. In 2008, the conversation about being able to consistently deliver safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise was just getting started. Moreover, the company’s leadership wanted to be at the forefront of creating new standards within the promotional products industry. “We realized that safety, compliance and social responsibility were becoming more and more important to our distributor clients and their end users,” says Joe Chanin, vice president of purchasing and compliance for Logomark. “When we were given the opportunity to become a part of a new organization that was going to be leading our industry in that direction, we felt it was something that we needed to be a part of.” While product safety has been an industry focus for many years, there’s much more to a well-rounded compliance program that ensures overall brand safety. “QCA has been an integral part in the creation of a complete compliance program from product design to delivery,” Joe says. “Although we have always been committed to product safety, once you have QCA there to guide the development of your program, you realize how much more there really is to know and implement.” Joe notes that through the company’s emphasis on regulatory compliance, social responsibility and product safety, its clients know they can trust both Logomark and its products. Part of that trust stems from QCA’s requirement to re-accredit, ensuring companies remain up-to-date with all policies and procedures. “A compliance program is an ongoing process that involves continuous improvement and commitment from all parts of your organization,” Joe explains. “Staying accredited is extremely important because it can be easy to get complacent if you don’t have the checks and balances in place. QCA is one of those checks.” Because rules and regulations are constantly changing, there is no one-and-done with QCA’s Accreditation process. The real value comes in the form of being held accountable year after year. Case in point: New Prop 65 regulations went into effect on August 30, and there has been lots of uncertainty. “I spent a lot of time speaking with distributors about the changes that were coming in August of 2018,” Joe says. “It is amazing how much...

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O Canada! PPPC Suppliers Can Now Apply For QCA Accreditation

O Canada! PPPC Suppliers Can Now Apply For QCA Accreditation

We have some excellent news for our friends up North. The Board of Directors for the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) has revised our bylaws to include supplier members of the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC). Here’s how it went down: We had a request from PPPC to include them in addition to Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) as a criterion, it made sense and the board voted to revise the bylaws to include them. Boom! This allows QCA to be even more inclusive and continue living out our mission to serve the entire industry. While applicants must still be incorporated in the United States, now they can be members of either PPAI or PPPC as a part of the qualification process. What has not changed is that applicants must meet the definition of “supplier:” A promotional products company that manufactures, imports, converts, imprints or otherwise produces or processes promotional products offered for sale through promotional consultants (distributors). What does this change mean to you? Well, it broadens the number of suppliers who are eligible to apply; more accredited suppliers gives distributors more verifiably responsible resources and this, in turn, offers buyers a more comprehensive selection of safe and responsibly sourced products such as tuques (that’s Canadian for a knit hat for all of you lower than the 49th parallel). Moreover, that’s good for everyone’s bottom...

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Making Big Deals Happen

Making Big Deals Happen

In 2003, two college seniors, Bret Bonnet and Michael Wenger, secured a loan from the Coleman Foundation of Chicago. They took this money and started a little online promotional products business called Quality Logo Products. Since then, the company has evolved into a $50 million operation with two offices, 115+ employees and an international client base. The media has taken note of this growth, with the company being named as one of Promo Marketing’s Top 50 Distributors, Counselor magazine’s Best Places to Work, and fastest-growing U.S. companies on the Inc. 5000 list. While Quality Logo Products is an online retailer, that doesn’t mean that it’s staffed by a bunch of robots. Quite the opposite. Customers have one dedicated, 100% human customer service professional assigned to every order. Representatives keep buyers updated throughout the ordering process, from the time of initial quote to when items are delivered. This attention to detail and personalized service sets them apart from other online sellers. Another competitive differentiator is the company’s involvement with QCA’s Distributor Advocacy Council (DAC) and its pledge to use suppliers who consistently deliver safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise. This commitment to brand safety has landed such high-profile clients as Grammy award-winning artists, major sports franchises and Fortune 500 companies—all of whom demand safe and compliant products. “It’s important for our customers to feel good about whom they choose to work with,” says Marketing Manager Kelsey Brown. “Purchasing from suppliers who undergo meticulous safety evaluations is one of the most important decisions we make to protect our customers. After all, we didn’t put ‘Quality’ in our business name for no reason!” Kelsey says one of the company’s top priorities as an organization is to make sure they are playing their part in protecting consumers who shop for promotional products online. “It was clear that partnering with the DAC was the best way we could ensure our items are safe and will serve as effective branding opportunities for our customers,” she explains. However, while there is much talk about brand safety and responsible sourcing with the promotional products industry, there’s still a significant knowledge gap for the average customer. “The biggest misconception buyers have is that everything they buy is safe and produced ethically,” Kelsey says. “When you’re browsing the aisles in a store, you don’t always know what kind of environment the products you’re purchasing came from. Many...

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