So You’ve Got a Recall. What Now?

Back a few years ago when I was still working as a promotional products end-user client, I thought product safety was pretty much a black or white issue. In the most simple of terms, a product was either safe or it was not. Well, if you work in the promotional products industry sourcing and buying products and keeping up with product safety and compliance regulations and procedures, you already know that it is not always the case. Safety and compliance lives in shades of grey. I’m sure you’ve already read about the voluntary recall conducted by Top 50 Supplier Jetline Promo, which involved a USB-to-AC Power Adapter due to the possibility of overheating. While only one of the 31,000 adapter/chargers showed the potential to overheat, this QCA accredited supplier opted for the conservative approach, and voluntarily recalled the items. A recall, no matter how small or extensive, inevitably causes a lot of discussion and hype within the industry. In order to shed more light on the matter, I contacted Jetline CEO Eric Levin about the recall. According to Levin, “I find it hard to believe that others haven’t had a similar situation. We hope that by a Top 50, QCA-certified supplier setting an example and leading the way, others will follow suit. Jetline wants to be first in a ‘not-if-but-when’ situation. There were those in the industry who tried to capitalize on the media hype, but for the most part our decision was looked at as ‘Thanks for setting the tone and sending the correct message out.’” As for the actual process Jetline used, Levin remarked, “The CPSC says that you must report if you believe that a product may even have a potential to be hazardous. The QCA accreditation process has various exercises that prepare the company for a recall scenario, including going through a mock recall exercise.” If you are faced with a recall, how will you react? Do you have a recall plan in place? There are some good lessons to learn from the Jetline recall and put to use in your business. For the rest of the story and some other things to think about, read my post on the Promo Marketing...

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Promotional Products Industry: Balancing Risk and Reward

Recently, I spent some time with the Ohio Promotional Professionals Association at their “Promotions At the Bay” event. While I was there, I spoke to a group of both suppliers and distributors about some research I’d done on recent Consumer Product Safety Commission fines for the presentation. The latest update to the CPSCIA is anything but light reading, but provides much insight into the agency’s current direction. Many of the folks that attended the OPPA event are sales reps who are out in the trenches, actually making the sales of promotional products on a day-to-day basis. But the fact is, not everyone sells to the Fortune 500 end-user every day. Likewise, not every company ships product to California, where it’s imperative to understand and deal with PROP65 concerns. And, of course, not everyone works for an organization with unlimited resources for monitoring the thousands of regulated chemicals and products, as well as the many changes made by the CPSC and Food and Drug administration. So, for me and my team, one of our biggest challenges is the question of how we can help those promotional product reps actually making the sales and working with limited resources make it part of their decision to deliver safe and socially compliant product? It’s all in the balance of risk and reward. The Basics of the Risk and Reward Equation When you’re evaluating a potential customer relationship or a sale and thinking of it in the terms of risk and reward, simply consider these three questions: What does my company expect? What does my customer expect? What does the state of destination require? Let’s First Consider The Risk The CPSC lately has turned to widely publicized fines, rather than simply creating new regulations, to gain more attention for product safety responsibilities. Not every situation merits a $3.9 Million fine like repeat offender Ross stores, or the $400,000 fine to Kolcraft, or $987,500 to Williams-Sonoma. But every situation could result in a personal civil penalty of $100,000 per violation (Well, that’s getting serious, isn’t it?). Unless, of course, there is a death involved with a product failure. Then the fines go to $250,000 per incident for individuals and $500,000 per incident for companies. In short, choosing to sell a product that does not have a readily available certificate of conformity means the question becomes, “is it worth that risk?” Risk has a way of finding...

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Walmart Opts Out of Bangladesh Factory Safety Deal

Walmart Opts Out of Bangladesh Factory Safety Deal

Walmart has decided against joining a group of European retailers who have signed a legally binding agreement designed to improve factory safety in Bangladesh. The deal comes after a devastating building collapse that killed hundreds of factory workers and highlighted the ongoing safety issues in the country’s garment industry. The deal, which was drafted by Industriall and the UNI Global Union, has attracted signatures from a growing number of retail companies, including Hennes & Mauritz, Inditex, Benetton, Primark, Mango and C&A. As part of the agreement, companies that buy clothes from factories in Bangladesh must commission independent safety inspections and pay for building repairs. For those who sign the agreement and don’t abide by the terms, the deal can be enforced through arbitration and the courts. Walmart has declined to sign the agreement because “it does not want to agree to the dispute resolution mechanisms it contains,” as reported by the Financial Times. Instead, Walmart has introduced its own safety plan and said “it would reconsider its position on the broader deal if its concerns were addressed,” according to the FT. The retailer agrees with the bulk of the proposal, but is concerned about requirements contained in the agreement that include “governance and dispute resolution mechanisms” that Walmart says are “unnecessary to achieve fire and safety goals,” writes the FT’s Barney Jopson. Walmart says its plan will achieve results more quickly and plans to conduct safety inspections of all 279 factories that produce goods for it within the next six months. The company also plans to publish the results, citing transparency as “the ultimate accountability mechanism” in an interview with the FT. We’re interested to see if Walmart follows through on its promise. We agree that transparency is an important part of the safety and compliance process, but only if it actually happens—otherwise, empty promises do nothing to advance the guidelines and reforms that the Bangladesh garment industry (not to mention the industry in other countries) so desperately needs. What do you think of Walmart’s stance? Should they have signed the existing agreement, or are they right to implement their own plan? Image: Fruitnet.com via Compfight...

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Tragic Bangladesh Collapse Highlights Critical Need for Safety

Tragic Bangladesh Collapse Highlights Critical Need for Safety

The tragic collapse of an eight-story building that housed garment factories in Bangladesh underscored the unsafe conditions that continue to prevail in the country’s garment industry. The death toll has surpassed 800, and about 2,500 people were injured. Even more appalling are indications that this devastating event could have been prevented. “Workers said they had hesitated to go into the building on Wednesday morning because it had developed such large cracks a day earlier that it even drew the attention of local news channels,” as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle via the AP. “On a visit to the site, Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir said the building had violated construction codes and ‘the culprits would be punished.'” Several textile businesses were located in the building, including Phantom Apparels Ltd., New Wave Style Ltd., New Wave Bottoms Ltd. and New Wave Brothers Ltd. The AP reported that the companies made clothing for major brands like The Children’s Place, Dress Barn and Primark, a connection that has sent the companies scrambling to cover their tracks. Jane Singer, a spokeswoman for The Children’s Place, said in a statement that, “while one of the garment factories located in the building complex has produced apparel for The Children’s Place, none of our product was in production at the time of this accident.” The tragedy is a scenario that continues to mar the industry and put workers in unnecessary danger, often resulting in lost lives. And it’s one that highlights the critical and ongoing need for increased safety procedures, including processes like QCA Accreditation, to help minimize these types of incidents. The risk of potential damage to a brand from tragedies like this is a threat to the promotional products industry in general. Without processes in place, like those from accredited QCA suppliers, end-users of promotional products are unsure of their origin. They may turn away from using promotional products to items with less risk—like gift cards. The risk to the long-term sustainability of the industry is real. In the wake of the collapse, American Apparel CEO Dov Charney had strong words for those in the apparel industry. “The apparel industry’s relentless and blind pursuit of the lowest possible wages cannot be sustained over time, ethically or fiscally,” Charney wrote in a letter published on American Apparel’s website. “As labor and transportation costs increase worldwide, exploitation will not only be morally offensive and dated,...

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CPSIA Tracking Labels: Are You Getting It Right?

It’s been four years since the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was signed into law, and promotional products professionals are still struggling with the labeling requirements. Permanent tracking labels—a CPSIA requirement for children’s products—sound simple. In practice, however, the details aren’t so easy to implement. Depending on what you sell, where you buy it, who makes it and how you decorate it, the tracking label requirement can be a complex burden. In this PPB article, Rick Brenner, CEO of Prime Line, a QCA Accredited Supplier discusses not only who is responsible for tracking labels but also how you can get it right with tracking labels—and give examples from which to learn. As Brenner states in the article, “The more that distributors and suppliers integrate these new responsibilities into the culture and daily practices of their companies, the better job they will do in complying with the law and the less they will risk an expensive and embarrassing fiasco. And beyond pure compliance, conscientious and high-quality business practices like these have a major impact on maintaining the confidence of major corporations in our industry, something that none of us can afford to take for granted.” Read the complete article...

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Changing Horizons: FTC’s Updated Green Guides Alter The Eco-Marketing Landscape

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, there’s been much talk in the media about “reducing your carbon footprint” and “making sustainable choices.” Most agree that being environmentally conscious is the right thing to do, but finding products that are truly “green” is difficult because of the nebulous language describing them. To help marketers communicate appropriately about their eco-friendly products, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) developed Green Guides—and the latest update was released last month. In this installment of Compliance Chat, D E Fenton, QCA’s executive director – compliance, discusses what “green” means, what’s different in the update, what’s new in the update and what can be expected on the horizon. At 36 pages in length, the Guides For The Use Of Environmental Marketing Claims is certainly detailed, but its overall direction makes it clear that while there are shades of “green,” unsubstantiated claims must stop and there financial penalties for those who don’t comply. To read the post published by Promo Marketing on November 16 in its entirety, click...

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