PPAI’s Virtual Product Responsibility Summit was held online for the first time and included a full week of programming that explored the industry’s most relevant and pressing topics relating to product compliance. This year’s conference, which ran September 14-18 and drew more than 140 registrants, marked the 10th anniversary of this popular event.

Summit’s session schedule featured speakers and panelists from government agencies, regulatory organizations and promotional products companies. The lineup over the five-day event delved into a wide range of subjects, from how different government agencies interact with the promotional products industry and the importance of truth in marketing; to best practices when importing, distributing and labeling products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and the process of issuing recalls, among numerous others.

Among the sessions was “Human Rights And Forced Labor In The Supply Chain.” Moderated by PPAI’s Anne Stone, CAE, it included experts Nury Turkel, United States commissioner on international religious freedom, and Sharon Waxman, CEO of Fair Labor Association, who guided attendees through the far-reaching impact of forced labor, from the Xinjiang region of China, which is responsible for 85 percent of China’s cotton production. Apparel is the largest product category for the promotional products industry, and in this 60-minute session, attendees sought to answer an important ethical question: Can you say for certain that there is no forced labor in your supply chain?

In Summit’s final session, “Where Do We Spend First As We Rebuild And What Are Our Priorities?,” panelists shared how they’re planning with confidence and addressing concerns related to product responsibility in the age of COVID-19. Kim Bakalyar, CAS, chief compliance officer at PromoShop, moderated this interactive session with speakers Sandeep Jain, vice president of supply chains at ImagenBrands; Cindy Belloso, global compliance manager at Sunscope; Donna Tyser, director of sales at Alight Promos and Lenny Polakoff, partner at Zagwear.

The event drew many positive reactions from participants.

“This year’s program was extremely valuable for many reasons,” says Kimberly Fulford, MAS, PPE product manager at Proforma. “One, staying informed and connected in our industry is critical and this event provided that forum. Second, PPE is still very new for many distributors and there is a lot to know and understand. I found the FDA session extremely valuable to me so that I can continue to help Proforma owners understand best practices for identifying qualified products and being alert to fraudulent or inferior PPE products.”

Longtime participant Rosann Webster, chief information officer at SnugZ USA, says, “Wow, this year’s conference has been phenomenal. I feel that PPAI and the PRAG [Product Responsibility Action Group] team did such a great job putting this virtual conference together. All of the sessions were relevant, well thought out, had wonderful speakers and I loved the Q&A format that followed each session. As a speaker on one of the panels, I am grateful that the PPAI team took the extra time to pre-record the sessions prior to the event.” She adds that she’s happy that the platform will remain in place for registrants for a few months. “There are a few sessions that I will go back and watch again. They’ve attached so many resources to the sessions in the platform that are so helpful.”

Janie Gaunce, president and CEO of Grapevine Designs, LLC, was impressed with the format as well as content. “From a technical perspective, it was interesting to move between pre-recorded and live Zoom content. It was so flawlessly produced that it made no difference from a user perspective. I jumped easily between the agenda and actual sessions. The Q&A and chat features were great—those questions from the audience were so valuable. This information is a ‘must have’ for our industry—especially this year—and I will try my darndest to never miss Summit.”

Lindsey Davis, MAS, director of promotional sales at Raining Rose, says she found this year’s program especially relevant. “As always, it focused on current compliance trends along with bigger issues and important trainings—I really appreciate that balance. There isn’t a lot of good created by the pandemic, but due to the virtual nature of the conference, we sent more people from our Quality and Compliance team and a couple were first-timers. It was a great experience to see them asking great questions about our industry and engaging on the topics where they have expertise.”


James Khattak is news editor of PPB.