First Line of Defense Against Bad Publicity
Fortune 1000 companies utilizing promotional products increasingly demand comprehensive solutions to the complex questions about product safety, compliance and brand protection. When end-buyers (the users of promotional products) expect proof beyond aspirational statements and self-certification, distributors look to prove they have the solutions inherent with a transparent supply chain, committing to work with the industry standard for quality, compliance and socially responsible behaviors.
The Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) was established to address the need for a comprehensive manufacturing compliance accreditation program in the promotional products industry. Acknowledging the distinct needs of the Distributor, QCA implemented a phased credential program.
In an industry where key customers are household names seeking to promote their corporate brand with promotional products that embody their corporate principles, a Distributor’s compliance processes are these consumer-facing brands' first line of defense against bad publicity for a product they didn’t manufacture.
QCA offers three credentials to the Distributor – the Distributor Advocate, the Compliance Certified Distributor and the Distributor Strategic Sourcing Certificate.
- All Distributor Applicants are required to successfully complete the Distributor Advocate Questionnaire. The Distributor Advocate Credential is awarded on completion and renewable on an annual basis.
- The Compliance Certified Distributor Program requires Distributors to:
- fully document their compliance program policies, procedures and processes,
- demonstrate the effectiveness of the program in a third-party audit of their headquarters, and
- address any deficiencies noted in those audits.
- Once completing the Distributor Compliance Certification Program, a company may proceed to the Distributor Strategic Sourcing Certificate. The Strategic Sourcing Certificate requires the Distributor to validate compliance processes not only in their headquarters’ operations, but also throughout their supply chain. (This supply chain audit program will become available in 2020.)
The QCA Certificate is a two-year certification. During the first year the Applicant Distributor or Decorator is audited after completing the Distributor Advocate Questionnaire and a gap analysis.
Area of Compliance for Distributors
1) Product Safety & Regulatory Compliance
Product Safety combines the policies, procedures and protocols for two concepts in the design and manufacture of consumer products:
- Regulatory Compliance: All products and decorating materials must meet applicable regulatory standards for safety, labeling, environmental protection and other legally required standards and limits; and
- Safety: All products and decorating materials must not be manufactured or designed in a way that makes them dangerous to person or property when used according to their intended use or reasonably foreseeable unintended use and abuse.
Effective programs incorporate management practices that provide for the predictable output of products from a company’s manufacturing processes and ensure that goods continue to meet the intended requirements. For Distributors, this encompasses how they determine and measure Quality.
3) Social Accountability
Labor standards policies are designed to ensure that a minimum set of protections, including basic rights, fair treatment and safe working conditions are provided to all workers who produce the product that is then sold/provided to your customer. For Distributors, this includes ensuring that your firm meets social accountability standards (SA) and that you communicate those SA requirements to vendors making goods for you.
What Distinguishes an Advocate From a Compliance-Certified Distributor?
- For a Distributor, the QCA Compliance Program begins with successfully completing the Distributor Advocate Questionnaire. Supporting documentation is reviewed by QCA Compliance for confirmation.
- Distributor Certificate Applicants are required to also complete the QCA Self-Assessment for their organization.
- The self-assessment begins with a gap analysis to identify process and procedure voids.
- It continues with the intensive development of a comprehensive compliance manual that ensures the Distributor Applicant has an effective program for detecting and deferring unsafe or non-compliant product before it enters into the supply chain.
- Next, on successful completion of this process, a series of audits are authorized for the Distributor’s headquarters.
- Corrective action may be required.
- Distributor Applicants seeking the Strategic Sourcing Certificate (available from 2020) are required to successfully audit not only their headquarters, but a portion of their supply chain, annually, as well.
QCA’s standards are NOT available on this website. The standards are available in print and electronic formats for Accreditation and Certification participants. A high-level overview of QCA’s standards is available via our Knowledge Series. For more information see our FAQs.
Who Can Apply for Certification
Promotional products companies that are registered as a “Distributor" or "Decorator” with the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), or the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC), are incorporated in the United States, its territories, or Canada are eligible to apply as a QCA Advocate and/or the Certification Program.
A "Distributor" per the definition provided by the PPAI means a promotional products company that develops ideas for using promotional products in a marketing or promotional campaign, buys such items from Suppliers and re-sells them to end-users. These requirements may be verified by an audit of production and purchase records prior to acceptance of the application for membership. The Corporation's Board may adopt additional qualifications for membership from time to time. For application information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
A "Decorator" per the definition provided by the PPAI means a promotional products company that embellishes a third-party product either through screen print, painting or embroidery. These requirements may be verified by an audit of production and purchase records prior to acceptance of the application for membership. The Corporation's Board may adopt additional qualifications for membership from time to time. For application information, email email@example.com.
Certification Leads to Greater Profitability and Growth
Accreditation and Certification are necessary components of business operations today, it’s simply the “new normal”. More and more, large companies are only interested in vendors who understand the importance of safety and compliance and who insist on it as it relates to every component of the manufacturing and import process. It’s the component that allows companies to take the next steps to greater, more lucrative opportunities to work with larger companies. QCA Certification: social awareness and conscience-driven growth and profitability.