Inside PPAI: PPAI Product Responsibility Summit Lauded As Another Exceptional Learning Experience

PPAI’s ninth annual Product Responsibility Summit, in Alexandria, Virginia, September 15-17, brought together nearly 170 professionals for industry-specific education focused on the issues and challenges of manufacturing, sourcing, shipping and selling safe products.

“I think this year we evolved from prior Summits,” says Leeton Lee, president of ComplyBox Consulting, chair of the PPAI Product Responsibility Action Group and co-chair of Summit. “We went further by even helping the experienced attendees go to that next level of education. We provided resources that complement what we’ve done before and help attendees take the next step. The subjects we covered have also evolved in terms of sophistication, knowledge and best practices.”

Rick Brenner, MAS+, president and CEO of Logical Advisors and co-chair of the Summit, says, “That we are still attracting nearly 200 attendees for nine years in a row is an emphatic statement about the commitment of most professional promotional products distributors and suppliers to product safety, regulatory compliance and product responsibility.”

Attendees at this year’s conference took part in the keynotes, roundtables and panel discussions designed to deliver education, answer their questions and send them home with valuable information to improve their processes and businesses.

“This was my fifth time attending and I always wonder before I attend, if it is going to be worth the time and money spent to be there. However once again, I left there with plenty of information that was relevant and valuable,” says Rachel Noland, compliance coordinator for distributor Goldner Associates in Nashville, Tennessee. “It was definitely worth it, and I have felt that way every time.”

Terry Brizz, MAS, president of supplier Galaxy Balloons, Inc., in Cleveland, Ohio, says Summit was exceptional on many levels. “The content of the seminars was excellent (CPSIA basics, Prop 65, social responsibility, sourcing beyond China, intellectual property, tariffs, etc.). I came home with over five pages of notes and follow-ups. The presenters of the different topics and the panelists were very good. To have CPSC Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle talk to our group was wonderful. The networking opportunities with fellow suppliers, distributors and professionals was very insightful and fun. PPAI did a great job with this Summit.”

Photo above, left: Along with keynotes and panel discussions, Summit's roundtables provided an opportunity for attendees
to learn directly from each other on numerous issues and challenges. Photo above, right: CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie
Buerkle, who has spoken at Summit several times before, gave her final speech in her current role to the PPAI audience.
She spoke on what she and the CPSC accomplished during her six years with the commission, and what it needs 
moving forward. 

Becky Thesing, vendor relations coordinator at distributor American Solutions for Business in Glenwood, Minnesota, plans to pass on the information she learned this week to ASB associates and home office teams. “One of my main takeaways this year was how compliancy protects the brand standards for our end users as well as American Solutions for Business. Once we start sharing more information with our ASB associates, they can share how important it is to their end users and why we need to do what we do.”

In addition to a dozen education sessions on topics from Prop 65 and modern slavery to button cell batteries and sourcing beyond China, attendees were treated to keynote presentations from CPSC Acting Chairman Ann Marie Buerkle and newly elected CPSC Vice Chair Robert Adler. They also received a comprehensive workbook, Corporate Responsibility In The Age of Uncertainty.

“I’m really proud of the work being done by our Association,” says longtime Summit participant Debbie Abergel, chief strategy officer for distributor Jack Nadel International in Los Angeles, California. “The workbook was so well done—easy to understand and so on target for our industry. The sessions were great—not too much info where you feel your head would burst. The speakers really understood our challenges and networking with the industry compliance professionals was great.”

JP Stratton, director of merchandising and vendor relations at Bel USA in Medley, Florida, has been responsible for product testing and compliance for two years. Compared to many others at Summit, he says he’s a rookie, but the content at this year’s program was spot on. “When the inevitable questions about Prop 65 or product testing protocols arise, I still have to take a deep breath and let the anxiety fall away. I still do not think of myself as the compliance guy at our company, but I have learned that I know more than I give myself credit for. The Summit and the people who attend, like Rick Brenner (he’s my go-to), are the key contributors to that knowledge. There were a bunch of key takeaways as well, but one of the biggest, which was my favorite session and the most eye-opening, was on plastics and how the benefits are being outweighed by the end-life waste of the products.”


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.

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