QCA Expands Engagement With Distributors And End-Buyers

The Quality Certification Alliance (QCA) has launched a restructured participation model and fee plan designed to be more engaging and inclusive with distributors, suppliers and end-buyers. QCA is an independent, non-governmental accreditation organization in the promotional products industry dedicated to helping companies provide safe and responsibly-sourced products.

While the organization’s overall mission and standards remain the same, this broader structure is intended to give more companies the resources they need to meet buyers’ demands for brand safety, social responsibility and sustainability. Tim Brown, MAS, QCA’s executive director of operations, says, “We realized there is considerable opportunity for brand safety to have greater relevance and meet buyer demands through expanded participation on both the supplier and distributor sides.”

The new participation model consists of four categories: end-buyer users, distributor advocates, certified distributors and decorators, and accredited suppliers. The inclusion of direct end-buyer engagement will allow for organizations of all sizes to publicly communicate their expectations to the industry.

QCA has created a fee structure that requires a modest investment from its new group of distributor advocates that will symbolize their commitment to responsible sourcing and send a clear message to industry suppliers about their expectations for transparency and accountability.

QCA says that under the new structure, distributors are empowered to collectively have a greater say in their supplier expectations for brand safety and responsible sourcing. Currently, it notes, small distributors lack the voice to push suppliers to go above and beyond. However, the new participation model allows a greater number of smaller distributors to collectively have a voice while at the same time enabling distributors and decorators of all sizes to be held to a higher standard through more accountability via certification.

“For suppliers to have a robust compliance program, certain costs are simply a part of the deal regardless of if they work with an organization or go it alone,” Brown says. “Realizing this, QCA is working with distributor advocates to help lessen the burden on suppliers. The result is a robust program that not only meets the industry and end-buyer demands but also is affordable and attainable. Getting involved will have more to do with a willingness to do what is right rather than a cost to participate.”

He adds, “For us to live out our mission and values, it’s essential that we adapt. That’s what this new participation model is all about. Through this revised structure, QCA can engage a greater diversity and variety of voices in the conversation around brand safety and corporate social responsibility. Thus, we can assist our trade association and industry compliance leaders in protecting and growing the industry.”

Speaking to PPB Newslink, David Clifton, president of the QCA board of directors and CMO at alphabroder, says, “This whole pivot is around inclusion. To get industry more engaged and accessible. QCA started out as a supplier organization and while it’s still very much supplier-driven, this new participation model is about getting engagement and inclusion from distributors of all sizes.”

He adds, “Turning product safety and compliance from a push to a pull, we want to encourage industry to pull it. Industry should be asking for this. End buyers should be asking. We want to provide a platform that is attainable and easy to get involved with. This changes QCA’s participation framework to make a broader, engaged association.”

Brown says, “In all of these changes, it’s really what the industry has asked of us. It’s based on feedback they’ve given us. There are a lot of distributors with strong programs and we want to help make them stronger.

Speaking on the new distributor advocate and certified distributors and decorators categories, Brown adds, “The distributor advocate category allows for greater participation from that community. It a modest investment and a great onboarding spot for distributors wanting to get serious about product responsibility. It differentiates them in the market, gives them a seat at the table and access to things they wouldn’t have access to. Supporter members will be invited to participate in an annual roundtable so that we can gain insight, feedback and hear suggestions for improvements. Its intended to help us improve our offering to ensure we are putting a product in the market that meets all of their needs.”

He says, “While accreditation is reserved for suppliers, those distributors who go through the certification process will find it rigorous and subject to audits. There are a lot of distributors with strong programs and we want to help make them stronger. We will audit them and validate what they’re doing.

“Certification’s inclusion of decorators is also critical They’ve been a missing component for years. It’s almost as if they’ve been out on an island. This allows decorators to participate and fill that missing link.”

Clifton says, “Becoming an advocate or certified is a communications point for distributors. It makes them visible to end users.”

Regarding end users, Brown notes that the new category gives end buyers access to QCA resources and, in many cases, supports what they’re already doing. He says, “End buyers don’t always have the control mechanisms to safety procure responsible promotional products. We’re giving them a birds-eye view into what the industry is doing to protect them.”

Clifiton says, “They’re also going to get exposure to distributors who are like-minded. A lot of them have their own compliance, but it makes it easier for them to choose from distributors who are onboard. Marketing and procurement can be challenging, and this makes it easier.”

For specifics about how the revised structure will work, click here.

filed under January 2019 | QCA
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