Differentiating Quality Still a Challenge for the Promotional Products Industry
So what are some meaningful steps we can take to help promote responsible sourcing?
Education is the most important. If everyone involved in the sale and purchase of promotional products understands the issues involved in quality and compliance, they will know the right questions to ask to help them make an informed decision of what product is best for their needs. PPAI does an outstanding job providing this education through webinars, MAS/CAS certification, its Product Responsibility Action Group and through classroom sessions at Expo. Many distributor and supplier organizations provide excellent training as well.
Second, the industry needs to do a better job of making it easy for distributors to differentiate the quality and compliance characteristics of similar products—on supplier websites, on ESP and on SAGE. Better product descriptions would help as would some kind of grading system to indicate whether a product was sourced with budget, standard or premium quality. Perhaps a series of standard icons could be developed to indicate product or supplier certifications, whether the product has been tested as a children's product or toy, and whether it is compliant with other state or federal requirements. It would be even better if these icons were active links to the actual test reports documenting the compliance claim.
John Ruskin once wrote "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper." That has always been the case in the promotional industry. But now, with product safety and compliance presenting such significant risks to our livelihood, it is more urgent than ever that we develop easier and more effective ways for the industry to differentiate the quality and compliance characteristics of similar looking products.