Hans PoulisThe European Promotional Products Association (EPPA) has launched a European Code of Conduct for the promotional products industry. The programme incorporates a certification program and is open to all companies in the promotional products business. EPPA President Hans Poulis on the content andthe objectives of the CSR offensive.

Over the past decades, dozens of different Codes of Conduct have been established – official ones as well as innumerable unofficial ones introduced by single industries or even individual companies. Why does the promotional products industry need its own Code of Conduct?

Hans Poulis: Despite the fact that there are many good and well-known standards relating to Corporate Social Responsibility, none of them meet the requirements this industry sets. Elements such as our wide variety of product categories, the different countries we operate in, the challenges we face and the flexibility we need as an industry, are not covered by the existing codes or certification programs. That is why EPPA decided that our industry would benefit from one single industry standard, customized to the demands of our market.
Our code has been developed by specialists from within the industry: Delegates from Giving Europe (Netherlands), Langhoff Promotions (Denmark), Mid Ocean Brands (Netherlands), PF Concept (Netherlands) and Van Bavel Business Gifts (Belgium).

Who was the code made for?

Hans Poulis: For all companies within the European industry, big and small, distributors and suppliers. You don’t have to be a member of an EPPA affiliated country association to enter the certification program. If companies are interested in adopting and supporting the code, they can obtain the Bronze Level for the small fee of 175 Euros or if they are a PSI member for 125 Euros. This fee will be used for communication and marketing purposes to create as much awareness as possible.

This Bronze Level is the first step in a modular structure, which allows companies to continuously improve their standards. What are the next levels?

Hans Poulis: The program allows a gradual approach and is divided up into three levels: Bronze, Silver and Gold. Following the Bronze level, where the respective company demonstrates its intent & commitment, each subsequent level of the certification program drives responsible business activities further and further throughout the company, demands further monitoring and auditing of the supply chain and is externally verified. In its structure the program allows companies to make yearly steps. Even within the respective current level a company is encouraged to grow to the next.

So, the Bronze level merely means that a company has signed the Code of Conduct?

Hans Poulis: Yes, that is correct. The Bronze Level shows a company’s intent and commitment. By signing the EPPA Code of Conduct you show that you are committed to responsible behaviour and to taking the code into account in your policy and business decisions. And you have to integrate the code into your company’s General Terms & Conditions and make the implications explicit to all employees wherever possible, specifically for supply management professionals.

Could you please explain the next two steps in detail?

Hans Poulis: The Silver Level requires translating the elements of the EPPA Code of Conduct into a company’s daily operations. This requires the following actions: The company identifies and documents how the code principles relate to its activities and it identifies a management representative, who is responsible for the establishment, implementation and maintenance of the respective processes. The company also has to provide its relevant employees with applicable information, so everyone knows in which way his role and responsibility is affected by the certification process and what part he plays regarding the certification. In addition to these business practices, the Silver Level includes mandatory activities such as management training (on awareness and understanding), a webinar for 50% of the key employees, and most importantly, an externally verified company audit, which has to be renewed every two years. Ideally, direct sourcing companies move to Level 3 after three years.

And in doing so, they become fully-fledged “CSR professionals” – what are the requirements for the Gold Level?

Hans Poulis: The company integrates the EPPA Code principles in its daily operations throughout the organization and verifies all the key players in its supply chain up to the first tier manufacturer. This includes audits by external bodies both within the company itself and the companies in the supply chain. Moreover, a company has to create credibility towards its customers. The Gold Level also requires a bi-annual renewal.

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