Buying promotional products shouldn’t be a risky proposition. Unfortunately, it can be. That’s why Fortune 1000 corporations and local organizations alike are more concerned than ever before about costly mistakes in this competitive economy. These buyers know that one wrong purchase could expose them to nasty headlines with claims their branded merchandise was made by sweatshop labor or that poor product quality could even lead to a product recall. No matter the size of the company, these kinds of hits are damaging to the bottom line as well as to brand equity that takes years to build.

To help mitigate this risk and protect their brands, corporate buyers continue to focus on vetting their supply chains and requiring their partners to prove compliance and social accountability. In order to meet these customer demands, Foamworx has begun taking the necessary, proactive steps to provide safe, compliant and responsibly sourced products by applying to participate in the comprehensive accreditation program developed by Quality Certification Alliance (QCA), the only coalition dedicated to ensuring accountability and independent validation of corporate responsibility throughout the promotional product industry’s supply chain.

QCA Accreditation: Why The Time Is Right

With offices in the U.S. and Canada, Foamworx began as an international manufacturer of foam toys, so safety has always been in the forefront because children were using the products. Additionally, the Foamworx management team has been aware of the QCA coalition of suppliers since the organization’s inception in 2008. So why is now the right time to embark on QCA Accreditation?

“We’ve always understood the value QCA Accreditation could add to our business,” says Heather Garner, Foamworx CEO. “Once QCA expanded the criteria to include all North American suppliers and created a participation model that wasn’t cost prohibitive for smaller suppliers, we were eager to begin.”

Additionally, Heather notes that documentation requests from distributors have changed, and she wants to be prepared to meet buyer expectations. “We’ve had various audits conducted throughout the years and product testing in place for more than 10 years,” she says. “To date, we’ve been able to satisfy distributor inquiries with this information. More recently, however, the requests come through for audits and social responsibility proof and not simply corporate statements. QCA Accreditation will give us the tools to provide the necessary documentation to back up those claims.”

Beginning The Process

Once the decision to participate was made, what’s next? Foamworx has begun the initial self-assessment phase, which is followed by the rigorous implementation of policies and procedures. Once these are complete, then the company submits its headquarters and supply base to multiple third-party audits. Finally, the QCA board uses a scorecard representing the performance of the applicant and its supply chain on the third-party audits as the foundation for granting Accreditation.

It’s a thorough and, at times, a rigorous process that can seem overwhelming. But applicants are never alone. “The most eye-opening part of the process so far has been the amount of guidance and support that the team at QCA provides,” says Scott Long, Foamworx director of operations. “While we have many procedures already in place, applying for QCA Accreditation requires us to take a harder look at our policies to ensure every detail is documented. We are certain that the thoroughness this process demands will help us to be a more efficient factory.”

Gaining Knowledge & Delivering Confidence

At the end of the day, one of the main reasons companies devote resources to becoming QCA Accredited is to instill confidence that promotional products are a safe, legitimate advertising medium that has true branding power for end buyers’ promotional campaigns. “Having QCA Accreditation will increase confidence through all levels of the buying chain and help our distributors answer their clients’ questions with assured knowledge that by selecting Foamworx products they are protecting their brands’ reputation,” Heather says.

And with only one percent of the industry participating in QCA, these companies are viewed as respected leaders who are actively working to change the perception of our industry. “I’ve heard many QCA Accredited Suppliers and Distributor Advocates give presentations at PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit and North American Leadership Conference, and they earned my deep respect,” Heather says. “I am excited to think that obtaining QCA Accreditation will put Foamworx at this same level of corporate commitment, despite the size of our company being small in comparison.”

With QCA recognizing that all sizes of businesses are serious about brand safety and responsibly sourcing through its new participation model, Scott says it was an easy decision to embark upon the Accreditation process. “The price tag to participate in QCA is offset by the value added to our business,” he says. “To be able to prove, by way of qualifying for QCA Accreditation, that we are serious about brand safety rather than just being aware of it, is priceless.”