PPAI’s Product Responsibility Summit, which wrapped up Tuesday afternoon after a two-and a-half-day run in National Harbor, Maryland, fully accomplished organizers’ and attendees’ expectations—and then some.
The education event drew more than 160 product responsibility professionals and executives from supplier and distributor companies across the U.S. and Canada for a broad examination of the issues from recalls and shipping lithium-ion battery products to voluntary standards and the how-tos for setting up a compliance program.
“It was great to come together and sit side by side whether with a customer or competitor and listen in on the issues our industry faces, sharing tips and best practices,” says returning attendee Lavina Da Silva, social compliance and sustainability manager for supplier Spector & Co. “I walked away from the Summit feeling recharged and inspired—not to mention the binder with loads of added value. I look forward to next year as we take another turn on this journey.”
Mark Schroer, vendor relations at supplier ADG Promotional Products, says, “One of the more intriguing parts of this whole thing is how the whole lithium battery piece keeps growing and taking on more steam as technology increases. It’s a bigger and bigger part of the whole scheme of things. I think it’s really interesting and key how PPAI and the Summit are addressing that and staying in front of it.”
The conference was a first-time experience for 19-year industry veteran Janet Schuette, product compliance manager at distributor Taymark. “Summit has been extremely useful for me—definitely worth the money and the time away from the office. The most beneficial thing for me has been to hear that I’m not alone. All the challenges that I have every day, there are hundreds of other people going through those same challenges, people who you really can network with and reach out to and get opinions on things.”
Paramount to the quality of this year’s Summit was the expertise of the speakers which included two of the five Consumer Product Safety commissioners, along with consumer product safety attorneys, representatives from Underwriters Laboratories, the Rechargeable Battery Association and Edelman, CPSC directors and a number of industry experts who serve on PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group, among others.
Following Commissioner Robert Adler’s riveting lesson on ethics during his presentation on Monday, CPSC Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic addressed the conference on Tuesday afternoon focusing on the CPSC’s role and its responsibility to consumers.
“Unsafe products hurt not only consumers but brands and businesses as well,” he said, emphasizing that the best way to avoid problems is to understand the CPSC’s role and businesses’ role for product safety. He also spoke about the myriad resources the CPSC can provide and urged listeners to look to the agency for information. “Only about a third of calls to the CPSC result in a recall,” he said, adding that fear of recalls keeps a lot of people from engaging with CPSC staff.
The commissioner also applauded PPAI’s efforts to educate the industry in all aspects of product responsibility. “PPAI has a vital role to play in this exchange of knowledge … and has become a model for safety education. Those efforts don’t go unnoticed at the CPSC. If the size and eagerness of this crowd is at all indicative of your commitment to compliance and safety, I’m confident this industry and its members will continue to thrive and deliver safe, enjoyable products for years to come.”
In a separate interview afterwards, Mohorovic further addressed the misconceptions about the agency. “We are reemphasizing the priority of the agency to be externally engaged,” he said. “We went through a new strategic plan and that’s identified as one of our goals. The entire organization is thinking about how it can become more and better engaged because we feel that a better educated community is going to provide a safer product.”
The Summit is a culmination of nearly a year’s work for the PPAI Product Responsibility Action Group (PRAG) and staff which includes determining the education programming and format, and putting together the speakers to address each topic.
“I’m most pleased that this year’s Product Responsibility Summit was able take this critical area of product responsibility education to the next level for our attendees by continuing to identify the most significant issues and needs, and attracting the right subject matter experts to address them,” says Rick Brenner, MAS, president of RFBrenner, LLC and co-chair of the event. “From the comments I heard throughout the event—from attendees and speakers—PPAI is heading in the right direction to provide industry members with the information, tools and resources their companies need most now to manufacture, decorate, ship and sell safe promotional products.”