In its seventh year, the PPAI Product Responsibility Summit brought the promotional products industry to Newport Beach, California, started Sunday to focus on the pressing business implications, challenges and opportunities associated with compliance.

More than 175 professionals responsible for ensuring the safety and compliance of the promotional products they sell have gathered at Newport Beach’s Duke Hotel this week to share, discuss and better understand how to manufacture, source, ship and sell safe products.

The first of 15 comprehensive education sessions started Monday morning and continue through this afternoon, tackling a diverse variety of key topics, including Prop 65, working conditions at production partners, what end-buyers are looking for, the latest from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), small-business compliance challenges, factory audits, import surveillance and more. The Summit’s line-up is being delivered by a range of experts from inside and outside the industry.

“I’m so proud of the pioneering role that PPAI has played in educating the industry and raising the awareness of product safety and compliance for branded promotional products,” says Rick Brenner, MAS+, president of RFBrenner, LLC, and co-chair of the Summit. “This week we will welcome more than 175 attendees to our seventh annual summit, one of our industry’s most widely anticipated and well-attended events. I want to recognize and thank all the members of PPAI’s Product Responsibility Action Group, our intensely committed volunteers who originally conceived this event so many years ago and who work tirelessly on behalf of all PPAI members. Your efforts have spawned so many product responsibility initiatives that our industry relies on, including our Code of Conduct and PPAI’s exceptional Product Safety Aware program.”

The conference began with a networking dinner Sunday night following a full day of optional product responsibility programming.

Monday’s speaker lineup opened with an insightful and often emotional look at working conditions at factories around the world and managing social responsibility obligations with Rachelle Jackson, director of sustainability and innovation at Arche Advisors and an expert in supply chain sustainability and labor issues. Jackson shared her experiences visiting factories stateside and overseas. Amid the images and discoveries of conditions that included substandard dormitory housing, underage workers and abuse by supervisors, Jackson shared ways in which companies can encourage compliance among factories. These include conveying expectations, using audit data to drive positive outcomes, partnering with factories to find solutions, and focusing on sustainable compliance by building management systems.

The day continued with a panel discussion featuring Joe Michael, a senior manager at The Walt Disney Company, and Joan Lawrence, the Toy Industry Association's (TIA) senior vice president of standards and regulatory affairs, who shared steps their respective organizations have taken to ensure the products that end up in their customers’ hands are compliant, safe and produced in safe working conditions. Panel moderator Gene Geiger, MAS+, CEO of Geiger, co-chair of the PPAI Product Responsibility Action Group and co-chair of the Summit, asked the pair questions about how their organizations address and monitor responsible production in overseas factories.

Lawrence says, “We developed a safety standard going back decades and continue to revise it. You can do all the right things, but you never want to pat yourself on the back because you never know when the other shoe will drop.

“In the product safety standards [sphere] we also think about that potential new product. What’s going to happen in innovation? How do we write standards that keep pace, and how do we strike a balance between protecting standards and also leaving room for innovation?”

Sarah Esmaili and Tiffany Ikeda, with the law firm Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, also presented a session discussing changes in the warning obligations of California’s Prop 65. The new obligations go into effect in August 2018, and Esmaili and Ikeda explained to the audience how to become compliant with the updated regulations.

After lunch on Monday, CPSC Chair Ann Marie Buerkle joined the Summit through video conference, speaking on the CPSC’s role, her philosophy and her expectations for the future. Encouraging a two-way conversation, Buerkle took questions from the audience during her presentation. For a deeper dive into her session, click here.

Esmaili and Ikeda returned to the stage Monday afternoon to take a close look at what companies can do to comply with new California Prop 65 requirements and answer attendees’ questions on regulatory compliance and staying on the right of side of the state’s laws.

Monday’s agenda concluded with a presentation from Shelby Mathis, small business ombudsman at the CPSC, on the unique challenges small businesses face in compliance. Mathis’ session highlighted a number of changes in various regulations, how the CPSC identifies and measures associated risks, and resources available to industry businesses.

Today, a full schedule of education and networking opportunities continues with speakers exploring a range of issues important to the industry and its compliance and product responsibility professionals, including factory audits, managing a quality process and minimizing risk, among other topics.

The Summit officially wraps up with a reception this evening, and offers an optional boat tour of the Port of Long Beach on Wednesday morning.

Watch for continued coverage of the Summit in Thursday’s PPB Newslink.