The Promise and Risk of IoT Products for the Promotional Industry

The consumer product world is experiencing a broad emergence of Internet-connected tech products with embedded sensors and microchips that allow them to perform tasks never before imagined. They are part of the Internet of Things (IoT) and they will eventually redefine what we consider normal.  And like many tech items that evolve from pricey retail versions to low cost promotional versions, the day when IoT products arrive in the promotional industry is likely to come soon.  Imagine a T-shirt that monitors your heart rate and then automatically adjusts the program of your treadmill, a pill box that emails you if your elderly mother forgets to take her medicine, or GPS–enabled stickers that can track anything with a Find-my-iPhonetype app.  These products and hundreds more are all possible in what our industry could call the Internet of PromotionalThings (IoPT).  In time, there are bound be IoPT features added to a wide range of industry categories – from pens to drinkware to bags to apparel – as developers find meaningful ways to reimagine the customer experience and broaden marketing opportunities. But the benefits of IoT and IoPT may come at a price.  These connected consumer products are raising serious concerns for regulators around the globe as issues of cybersecurity and privacy abound.3  Consumers have already been subjected to hacking incidents with IoT control devices in automobiles, heart regulators, baby monitors, cameras, oil pipelines and credit card scanners, to name a few.  Promotional professionals should take the time to educate themselves about IoT now, before the products become plentiful in the industry, so that when they begin to appear you will be better able to make informed decisions and protect your clients’ brands. Only 4% of the world was online in 1999 when Kevin Ashton, a British scientist working at Proctor and Gamble (P&G), coined the term “Internet of Things.”[1]It was the title of a presentation he gave on the use of radio frequency identification tags (RFID) for P&G’s supply chain. Ashton was convinced that life would be greatly improved if computers weren’t dependent on humans for data entry – that electronic sensors, like RFID, were much more efficient.  He wrote, “If we had computers that knew everything there was to know about things—using data they gathered without any help from us—we would be able to track and count everything, and greatly reduce waste, loss and cost. We would know when things needed replacing, repairing or...

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QCA Milestone: 10-Years Of Going Above And Beyond For Brand Safety

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (July 10, 2018) – The Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), has reached a milestone this July, commemorating ten-years as the promotional product industry’s only independent, non-profit accrediting organization dedicated to validating industry manufacturing and sourcing processes. QCA has grown from a group of fourteen forward-looking companies in search of a comprehensive industry standard for compliance – to the industry model for world-class brand safety through responsible sourcing of branded merchandise.   “Board President, David Clifton of alphabroder remarked, “QCA has added immeasurable value to our industry over the last ten years and remains a shining example of what’s possible through collaboration around doing what’s right, fair and responsible.”   When asked what prompted his organization to become a founding company of the QCA, Immediate-Past President, Larry Whitney with Polyconcept, noted, “we had a good compliance program, but it was difficult to get that point across to customers and end-users without a frame of reference. There were, and still are, no comparable organizations that evaluate an organization on their ability to meet a variety of compliance-related criteria. Encouraging an independent third-party organization like QCA was in the best interests of our industry.”   QCA’s continued enhancement of protocols and standards reflects the company’s ongoing commitment to delivering innovative, powerful, and robust solutions for brand safety through the responsible sourcing and manufacturing of promotional products. Jeff Lederer, CEO of Primeline, another founding company asserts, “QCA has become the pre-emanate industry organization in product quality and safety, and for ten years there is no match – which shows the vision of this innovative group of founding companies. The longevity of QCA shows that the importance of ensuring this industry has the proper standards of compliance is critical.” As the QCA accredited supplier base has expanded during its ten-year history, the organization recently turned its attention to generating more end-buyer brand safety awareness. For nearly the past two years, QCA has been engaging directly with brands and trade associations across the country to promote brand safety. The message is simple, “if your brand is significant enough to promote, then it is significant enough to protect.”   For more information about QCA Accreditation and to inquire about the process and benefits received, visit http://www.qcalliance.org/.   Like QCA on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/QCAlliance Follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/QCAlliance Check us out on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/quality-certification-alliance/ . You can also click here to sign up...

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Brand Safety: An Unmitigated Commitment To Responsible Sourcing

Brand Safety: An Unmitigated Commitment To Responsible Sourcing

Design Resources Inc. (DRI) connects consumers to the apparel brands and products that they love. As licensee, designer, sourcing partner or brand owner, the DRI team focuses on apparel categories that require precise product coordination in order to deliver on complex needs. Working with the world’s finest factories and its own internal product development experts, DRI uses multiple channels of manufacturing origin to ensure year-round flexibility and product availability. The goal is to create innovative and high-quality apparel programs while consistently delivering safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise across all of its subsidiaries. In this week’s Partners In Brand Safety conversation, we talk with Compliance Manager Justin Jackowski, about how brand safety is a fundamental component of everyday business as well as how the company’s compliance procedures have grown from simply product safety and social responsibility and into a more complete and robust program.   1. What does brand safety mean to you? To me, brand safety is an unmitigated commitment to sourcing product in a responsible and informed manner that ensures compliance beyond applicable laws and regulations. As a supplier, adopting your customer’s core values as your own is crucial in maintaining trust and confidence. Product safety and integrity, social compliance, health and safety, security, environmental awareness and sustainability all need to be a fundamental component of everyday business.   2. How has QCA Accreditation benefitted/improved your company? Social responsibility and product safety is not a new concept, but it is not always clear if the right systems are place until they are tested. An accreditation program as rigorous as QCA’s will help identify gaps in an organization’s procedures and tighten the process.   As an industry leader, our partners and stakeholders depend on us to provide compliant and safe products. QCA Accreditation provides us and our customers with confidence that our company’s integrity is trusted and proven.   3. How confident were you in your compliance program prior to going through the QCA Accreditation program? (And did this opinion change after completing the program?) Design Resources, Inc. / Caps Direct has been QCA Accredited since 2012. Before joining QCA, our compliance program was very much centered on social compliance and product safety. Today, our program goes so far beyond these fundamental topics. The QCA Accreditation program has helped us develop and implement systems that enable us to remain at the forefront of compliance.   4....

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Demonstrating Commitment To Brand Safety

Demonstrating Commitment To Brand Safety

Since launching in 1998, eCompanyStore has been on a mission: To be brand-building experts for its corporate clients while delivering logoed merchandise with creativity, technical competence and cost savings. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Georgia, the company offers a complete suite of services including online store development, product creation and sourcing, fulfillment solutions, and custom invoicing and reporting. Working with well-known brands such as Microsoft, Nissan and Xerox, brand safety is paramount. Consistently delivering safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise is expected on every order. In this week’s Partners In Brand Safety conversation, we talk with John Cheevers, director of strategic partnerships, about the decision to be a part of QCA’s Distributor Advocacy Council and how end buyers’ brand safety requirements are impacting the way the promotional products industry does business.   1. What does brand safety mean to you? Brand safety means that we take care of our customers, their businesses and the recipients of products we create. We partner with professional suppliers who have codes of conduct, safety standards and testing protocols so that we can be assured that the products and services we represent to our clients and prospective clients will carry their brand messages safely, appropriately and reliably.   2. What motivated you to seek out DAC affiliation? Our company is a member of the United Nations Global Compact that specifies Ten Principles regarding Human Rights, Labor, Environment and Anti-Corruption. Participation in the QCA Distributor Advocacy Council is a strong way that we demonstrate our commitment to the UNGC’s Ten Principles.   3. How have you been able to leverage your DAC affiliation with end-buyers? We are proud to say that in this industry where buyers have thousands of companies to choose from, we are one of about a dozen who choose to actively participate in the Distributor Advocacy Council as one of the effective ways that we can make an ongoing effort to support and highlight these important issues regarding product safety, and social/ethical and environmental compliance.   4. What would you say to an industry supplier that is on the fence about whether or not QCA Accreditation is worth the investment? Accreditation is a powerful third-party reference. It shows that you agree that product safety and ethical manufacturing are important. By going through the QCA Accreditation process, you demonstrate that you care for your distributor partners, for their end-user customers, and for every adult...

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QCA Honors D. (Denise) Fenton For 10 Years As Head Of Compliance

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (June 10, 2018) – As the Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) embarks on its ten-year anniversary (July 10, 2018), the organization and its Board of Directors recognized Denise Fenton – Executive Director of Compliance for her role in establishing and maintaining QCA’s Accreditation program.   For more than 20 years, D. (Denise) Fenton has worked in international manufacture-for-export. At QCA, she administers all compliance aspects for QCA and is responsible for the ongoing evolution of the QCA Accreditation Program.   Prior to joining QCA, Fenton spent three years as Director of Corporate Compliance for Walmart, where in early 2000, she oversaw the design and implementation of the Walmart Factory Compliance system, a program focused on identifying and addressing root causes of non-compliance through operations-based solutions. She brought those skills, her experience working with organizations based in Taiwan, Sri Lanka and, China, and her fluency in Mandarin to QCA when creating the industry’s only independent, non-profit organization dedicated to developing and validating responsible sourcing best practices.   Current QCA president, David Clifton lauded Fenton as, “the glue that has held QCA together over the last decade. Her expertise, leadership and continuity have provided the foundation for QCA’s success and contribution to our overall industry.”   Clifton’s predecessor, Larry Whitney, added, “Dee Fenton’s hire by QCA in 2008 was critical to the successes of the organization. Her unparalleled knowledge in compliance matters, from her time at Wal-Mart, and from living in China, have been key to the development of QCA’s rigorous audit program. While the founding companies supported QCA financially in the beginning, it was Dee’s hard work over the past ten years that has helped QCA thrive.”     QCA’s “trademarked” Accreditation Program is the only one of its kind and was established specifically with the promotional products industry in mind.     For more information about QCA Accreditation and to inquire about the process and benefits received, visit http://www.qcalliance.org/.   Like QCA on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/QCAlliance and follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/QCAlliance and LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/company/quality-certification-alliance/. You can also click here to sign up to receive QCA News.   About QCA: Chicago, Illinois-based Quality Certification Alliance is an independent, not-for-profit, accreditation organization whose mission is to elevate the standards by which industry firms provide consistently safe, high-quality, socially compliant and environmentally conscientious merchandise. QCA Accreditation is granted to companies who complete an independent third-party audit and comply...

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