Whether in the headlines of major publications or on the websites of the world’s best-known brands, corporate social responsibility is front and center. Not only is this responsibility built into the products and services these brands offer, these same stringent compliance standards are becoming mandatory for any branded merchandise used to support their brands.
In order to continue meeting these kinds of buyer demands for brand safety and responsible sourcing, Dayton, Ohio-based Shumsky/Boost Engagement has applied to complete the QCA Distributor Certification Program.
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, launched the Certification Program at the end of July. Shumsky was one of the first companies to immediately apply.
“As the promotional products industry grows more competitive, we look at the opportunity to become a QCA Certified Distributor as an important reassurance to our customers that we are taking every step possible to protect their brands,” says Robert Steffek, director of global product for Shumsky/Boost Engagement. “Among the thousands of promotional product distributors, QCA Certification will allow us to more confidently offer products and solutions to our clients that are sure to be safe and of the highest quality.”
Meeting Buyer Demands
Today’s business environment is extremely competitive, and it’s not easy to land the more lucrative opportunities by working with larger companies—unless you can meet their demands.
“More and more frequently, our prospective and current clients are requesting that we provide verification that we use sources that place top priority on ethical and socially responsible manufacturing,” Robert says. “As the market pays more attention to environmental and human rights issues as well as the quality and safety of products, it is imperative that we take steps to ensure that every item we offer is compliant. By completing the QCA Certification Program and training our sales team, we will better serve our customers by providing informed recommendations for the best options that not only promote but also protect their brands.”
Beginning The Process
Built in response to a demand from the existing Advocacy Council, the Certification Program is designed specifically for the needs of distributors and decorators, allowing them to further their commitment to brand safety and responsible sourcing. Thus, Shumsky/Boost Engagement will begin the process by completing a thorough self-assessment, which includes a gap analysis to identify process and procedure voids and requires supporting documentation for review by the QCA Compliance Committee.
From there, the company will build upon the self-assessment by developing a comprehensive compliance manual that ensures it has an effective program for detecting and deferring unsafe or non-compliant product before it enters into the supply chain. Upon successful completion of this process, a series of audits are authorized for the company’s headquarters, where corrective action may be required before Certification is granted.
“Although we always strive to provide the best products to our clients, I know going through the Certification process will help us better identify and understand the regulations and requirements for the products we provide our clients,” Robert explains. “Being able to tighten up our processes and share the information learned with our team will increase the value that our company provides to our clients. Knowledge is power, and possessing the confidence to say NO to a product or a manufacturing facility will help us become a better partner.”
Creating Differentiation & Taking The Lead
There are many who feel that the responsibility for product safety and compliance rests solely on the shoulders of suppliers. And while suppliers clearly bear much responsibility because they are the manufacturers of record, our industry is built upon partnership and distributors are equally accountable in the eyes of buyers. Embarking on QCA Certification can actually strengthen the supplier/distributor relationship because both are working toward the common goal of brand safety and responsible sourcing.
“There are so many nuances to the products available and to the situations in which our customers use them that it can be overwhelming to feel reassured that every factor is taken into consideration,” Robert says. “As we go through the process, we become more informed on what types of questions we need to be asking our suppliers and our customers to not only improve communication but also ensure expectations are being met. Building these resources for our team will push us to be stronger brand protection partners for our customers and leaders in the industry.”
Becoming a stronger brand protection partner through QCA Certification will help Shumsky/Boost Engagement instill confidence that promotional products are a safe, legitimate advertising medium that has true branding power for end buyers’ promotional campaigns.
“It’s all about confidence,” Robert says. “Confidence that we are making the most informed and responsible decisions for our customers, and confidence from our customers that we take our role seriously, value their partnership and treat their brands as our own. That’s why we include our participation with QCA in RFP’s and customer inquiries, which sets us apart from much of our competition. Once completed, our QCA Distributor Certification will offer even more validation to the fact that we are taking the lead on product safety and brand protection for our current and future clients.”