While suppliers have much accountability when it comes to product safety and social responsibility, distributors also play an integral role by connecting end buyers with products that not only support their brand but also protect it. When the Distributor Advocacy Council (DAC) was created in May 2012, the purpose was to give distributors the opportunity to formally commit to meeting the higher product safety and compliance standards of Fortune 1000 companies through partnering with QCA Accredited Suppliers. While the goal was to strengthen relationships between Accredited Suppliers and distributors (which it did), there weren’t enough opportunities for distributors to truly participate in the larger conversation around brand safety.
All of this changed in January 2019. As a part of the new participation model, we redesigned the Distributor Advocacy Council to give distributors the ability to participate in the ways they had been requesting. These changes prompted Signet, which was one of the companies that formed the initial DAC, to become a part of the new and improved Advocacy Council.
“Previously, there was little opportunity for participation at the level we were seeking, despite good intentions,” says Elizabeth Tate, Signet CEO. “We are glad to see this change. The new participation model gives us the ability to have greater input, be heard and to have more significant influence.”
David Tate, Signet COO, continues: “Distributors have an important role to offer since we are the ones closest to end buyers. Without us, much valuable input can be missed. If we help, inform and encourage suppliers and their processes, it helps improve our individual companies and, without question, this improvement also pushes out to the industry as a whole.”
Another way the Signet team works to not only improve its company but also the industry as a whole is through its affiliation with Peernet, a strategic alliance of promotional product distributors that work together to provide the most advanced technology, product decoration, fulfillment and service to their expansive network of clients.
“Brand safety and social responsibility make up a core pillar of PeerNet,” David says. “As a founding member, we nudge, encourage and otherwise help drive safety at each of our preferred partner suppliers to their respective next levels.”
Being a part of a group of influential distributors who are on the forefront of safety concerns through both the Advocacy Council and Peernet is an important resource, especially when tapping into the collective knowledge of how to best educate end-buyers when their knowledge about brand safety and social responsibility is all over the map.
“Our clients run the gamut of safety awareness and interest, from ‘overly-cautious’ to ‘glad to know we have them covered’ to ‘clueless’ (complete with head nodding and yawning),” Elizabeth says. “Educating our disinterested clients is frustrating; reassuring our overly cautious clients is a never-ending quest full of hard work.”
As end buyers’ requirements about responsible sourcing, product safety and compliance evolve and become more stringent, the way the promotional products industry does business must change. “Gradually, brand safety is becoming an integral part of the mix: A must-have vs. a nice-to-have component of promotions,” David says.
What advice do the Tates have for other distributors so they too can meet end buyer demands? “If you are serious about brand safety and social compliance, join the Advocacy Council,” they say. “If you are not yet serious about brand safety and social compliance but know you need to be, join the Advocacy Council. Jump in the pool, and you’ll learn to swim.”
About the author: Since 1998, Lisa Horn, CAS, (a.k.a. The Publicity Gal) has been reporting on the issues that matter most to the promotional products industry. As QCA’s editorial director, she writes about brand safety and responsible sourcing. Connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @thepublicitygal.