Compliance: The Need For An Industry Standard
Being a distributor in today's business environment is challenging. They must build creative programs while meeting pricing pressures and shorter delivery times—all with exceptional customer service (and a smile). But the sales cycle has become even more complex due to the variety of compliance expectations from end-buyer customers.
Because there is a difference in content and format for these customer-specific requirements, distributors are required to create a new and unique response to each compliance request. To make matters worse, many end-buyers are not familiar with the compliance requirements for the products they purchase. As a result, they often default to requesting testing reports on products that may not have established criteria to meet other than how much lead is in the decoration. The absence of a clearly defined and adopted industry standard for compliance is creating havoc and confusion—along with additional costs—for everyone.
As an industry, it is imperative that we create a standard for product safety and compliance. And it is our responsibility to define and communicate this standard, or we will forever be condemned to chase the clients' moving target.
How do we go about setting a standard? There are several industries we could emulate. Through its creation of the International Council of Toy Industries (ICTI) in 1975, the toy industry has been working for decades to harmonize standards and get in front of these issues. For example, it established CARE—Caring, Awareness, Responsible and Ethical—an ethical manufacturing program aimed at ensuring safe and humane workplace environments for toy factory workers worldwide. Another example is the American Apparel and Footwear Association's WRAP (Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production) certification.
Both these industries recognized the benefits of a consistent standard, and multiple companies came together to create voluntary requirements. Over time, these standards, plus a set of accepted methods for evaluation and validation, became the recognized benchmark that all companies—including their customers—use to manage the process.