As the holiday season began, QCA was still out on the road sharing the message of BRAND SAFETY through the responsible sourcing of promotional products. While everyone was still eating Thanksgiving leftovers, the Institute for Supply Management Indirect Conference kicked off in Las Vegas. Moreover, once again, we were joined by a representative from the QCA Distributor Advocacy Council.

The lineup of quality speakers represented several supply chain categories from large and mid-sized organizations. Some of the more well-known included presenters hailed from Baxter International, FedEx, Intel, Microsoft, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council, and Zappos.


The event also featured a group of college students that had to compete for a chance to attend and receive scholarships to boot. This group of young minds was energetic and focused on the future with a keen understanding of sustainability. Thus, the responsible sourcing conversation just made sense to them. The next generation of procurement leaders has been raised in a culture that values corporate responsibility and distrusts brands for the most part. So, transparency – while somewhat of a buzzword currently – is going to be the way of the future.


It is essential to speak the buyer’s language if you want them to understand your value. While the industry tends to focus on product safety and rightly so, that topic appears to take a secondary position to social responsibility where procurement professionals are concerned. Understandably, they want to avoid safety incidents, injuries, recalls, and other issues. However, they are much more familiar with social responsibility and the potential damage that can result from associating their brand with products from a vendor that uses forced labor and/or commits other human rights violations.

The session titled “Unlocking Savings and Other Benefits with a Strategic Sourcing Program” went over extremely well and prompted a great deal of conversation. The speakers shared experiences with the vendor vetting process, RFIs, and vendor onboarding where the differentiator, as cited by the speakers, can often be a certification from a third-party.

Sustainability and responsible sourcing has become a higher priority for more F1000 companies and is now seeping into America’s mid-sized companies as well. With this has come the need for more information, more in-depth vetting practices, and a higher desire for validation, to ease the resource burden for indirect procurement professionals. Third-party certifications are seen as a way to accomplish all those objectives. It is not that certifications are the only way. Instead, they create a more comfortable path for buyers to make decisions and manage their categories.

There was some lamenting over the number of certifications today and how that makes it difficult to know which ones carry the most weight. This is why it is vital for promotional industry professionals to continuously educate clients and prospects about all the certifications they have obtained, what they mean and why they are important. This includes individual and corporate designations: CAS/MAS, WRAP, FLA, ISO, FSC, B-Corp, BlueSign, and of course QCA.


The majority of attendees we spoke with were genuinely interested in our message and expressed gratitude for what we are doing. Many had negative perceptions of the industry which is why the PPAI “Get In Touch” campaign is so important. Explaining the value of promotional products when used correctly and sourced responsibly changed the narrative as booth visitors connected the dots.

Contrary to popular industry belief, procurement professionals want to have this conversation. These buyers are tasked with bringing value to their organizations, so, help them add value in the form of BRAND SAFETY.


QCA is the promotional product industry’s only independent, non-profit organization dedicated to verifying the processes that help industry companies provide safe and compliant products. To learn more about how you can affiliate with QCA visit