Product Responsibility Step By Step
A Distributor Asks: As a small distributor, I feel a bit overwhelmed about product responsibility and where to start with a product responsibility program. It seems like there’s so much to know and I’m not sure where to start or how to scale up, and I can’t afford to hire someone specifically for this purpose. How have other small distributors approached or started product responsibility programs?
The first place to look for information and assistance is your regional association. Most regionals have a legislative chairperson, someone on the board or a volunteer who monitors the PPAI Law emails and assists in helping members with product safety and other legislative issues. They can be a distributor or supplier, and they have had the training necessary to assist you in whatever changes and adaptations you may need to make concerning your website, your employees and overall product safety.
The second place to look is the PPAI Government Relations Advisory Committee (GRAC). The members of this committee are the direct contacts with PPAI concerning product safety and legislative issues. We are both distributors and suppliers, and we work together for all regional and PPAI members. The contact info is available from PPAI. I am both a legislative chairman for Three Rivers Advertising Specialty Association (TRASA) and a GRAC member, and I am always available to assist and answer any questions for all PPAI and regional association members. The third place to get information is through Tim Brown at PPAI, as he is the “product safety guru” and will be able to answer your questions.
George Jackson Promotions
Product responsibility has been a big issue for us. We retained an expert consultant in product responsibility and corporate responsibility. This is a huge area for a small business to manage, and retaining the consultant has helped us immensely. As far as what we have learned, we implement policies and procedures based on suggestions of the consultant. For example, we will not source any products from Bangladesh, as we know there is a history of poor corporate responsibility in that country. So [a consultant] is helpful since some of our clients require us to maintain corporate and product responsibility policies and procedures.
Lasting Impressions Promotional Products, Inc.
Like anything, when you are overwhelmed, take your big project and move it into many little projects. I would start by simply taking the required courses so you at least have a big-picture understanding. Once you have a basic education, make sure you are aware of who your client’s target market is or if the item your client has chosen can be considered a children’s item. If you fall into this category, reach out to PPAI; they have an amazing team. Work with PPAI on a case-by-case basis as you build your knowledge. Finally, make sure you are communicating to your client how you are working to protect them by making sure anything they order is in compliance with the new federal regulations. Trying at least a little is going to be much better than just closing your eyes and hoping you don’t have any trouble.
Chief Operating Officer
As a small distributor—or any distributor—you can’t afford not to wrap your brain around product safety and compliance. It is a daunting area that can be simplified and understood if you become Product Safety Aware. I require my whole team to take the product safety classes through PPAI. We have incorporated this information into the business in a few ways. One way is communicating our knowledge at the beginning of our relationship with clients so they know that we source responsibly. Another way is taking compliance into account when deciding what suppliers to work with. Many suppliers are doing compliance very well and make it easy for us smaller distributors to get the proper documentation to provide to our clients. So do your homework. In addition to product safety, there are also social and environmental compliance issues that you should make sure the people you are buying from are complying with. As distributors, we have a responsibility to our clients and brands we work with to do our due diligence to ensure the products we are sourcing for them are made responsibly.
Matt Kaspari, CAS
Product safety and social responsibility is a big issue and an opportunity to differentiate as a distributor. It is impossible to know everything, but education is the key. I would suggest looking to PPAI and their webinar education to gain some knowledge on what those issues are so you can have knowledgeable conversations with your suppliers and customers. PPAI also offers a guidebook that you can purchase which can help you develop a program for yourself. This can all be done at little to no cost and you can put as much or as little time as you want into it. You can do it in four hours as a start, or dozens of hours if it is important to you.
Tom Goos, MAS
Image Source, Inc.
From a guy who has learned sales, product data and growing a company from the very ground up for three decades, I say all you need to do is join PPAI today. All the answers to your questions can be found on the PPAI member website regarding product safety. Another simple way to approach it is to only sell products with no (or minimal possible) liability. These products are out there.
Glen D. Eley
Eley Imprinted Products
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