By Vicki Matranga, Design Programs Coordinator
At the International Home + Housewares Show in March, the Innovation Theater in the Lakeside Center will present 21 educational programs, every hour beginning Saturday morning and ending Tuesday afternoon. At the Theater, located in Room E350 (near the entry to the Level 3 Lobby), experts in new product development and launch will discuss critical and timely topics in our industry. We’ll introduce you to the presenters with a series of interviews. Be sure to mark your calendars for these exciting programs! Check www.housewares.org regularly for updates on the schedule of Show events.
Monday, March 4 12:30 – 1:20 pm
Ethical Audits and Security Audits: What They Are and Why You Should Bother
Brian Whitters is an international sustainability/technical/supply chain and ethical compliance executive who is currently the Sustainability Deputy Vice President of SGS CTS, based in Fairfield, N.J. He is responsible for the SGS’s growing portfolio of global sustainability services. This includes auditing services, carbon footprinting and life cycle assessments. He has led sustainability organizations in France and Scotland and has strong manufacturing experience from various positions in Asia.
Germaine Zhang is the SGS North American technical manager of social responsibility, focusing on technical support for the development and implementation of customers’ social compliance programs. She has more than 15 years of experience in auditing, training, quality management, supply chain, sales and customer service at monitoring firms, accreditation organization, well-known brands and manufacturers. Prior to SGS, Germaine served as Assistant Technical Manager at ICTI CARE Process, where she oversaw factory audits, quality control, training and technical assistance for the International Council of Toy Industry’s ethical manufacturing program. In addition, she also worked at the Walt Disney Company’s ILS (International Labor Standards) program and Jetta Toy Company as Senior Auditor and Compliance Officer.
What inspires your passion in your work?
We are constantly inspired by the ever changing landscape of the sustainability debate. Twenty years ago, the industry was interested in health and safety conditions in the factory base. This was quickly followed by a focus on child labor, wages and hours of work. Now, we are actively involved in developing Eco Indices, Life Cycle Assessments, water footprints and scope 3 carbon footprints, to name but a few.
Overall we know that the work we perform makes a positive difference with in the global supply chain for people and the environment.
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
The International Home + Housewares Show hosts some of the largest and most forward-thinking housewares, tabletop and consumer goods manufacturers and importers.
SGS is looking to increase our exposure in this industry, and we are eager to see the industry trends first hand. In addition, we are looking forward to discussing the obstacles that our current and potential clients, who are exhibiting at the Show, are facing.
This is your first time presenting at our Theater. What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
We look forward to connecting with an audience that we have not previously reached out to specifically on these issues. SGS works with a number of companies in this industry, but more so in the areas we are best known for, e.g. testing of products and inspection of exports/imports, among many others. We feel there are also sustainability and security issues that need to be addressed with the housewares industry and we would like to provide members with relevant information on these topics.
What do you see as your clients’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Emerging and continually changing legislation appears to be one of the largest obstacles, along with the myriad of retailer requirements; these issues can affect our traditional services as well as sustainability and security-related initiatives.
Cost savings and a logical approach to compliance and verification testing, up and down the supply chain, seem to be the echoing concerns. SGS is well-equipped, through our global network, to support clients locally and their global suppliers by reviewing and suggesting harmonized tests and protocols to save time, money and energy, so that our clients and their suppliers can focus their energy where it’s best served– at developing great and innovative products.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
Product development teams are constantly being challenged in many ways and are often asked to become involved in compliance. And why not, since they are mostly involved in the creative and supplier selection process at the early product development phase.
Some of the biggest challenges product development teams face are time management and navigation of complex regulations that are often well beyond their current scope of knowledge.
Our technical and key account management teams are challenged on a daily basis to ease these burdens at this crucial early stage and then to also offer assistance through the product development life cycle. This is where SGS truly sets itself apart from other service providers in the testing, inspection and certification industry. As we say within SGS, ‘when you need to be sure’ speak with the professionals, SGS.
What is the best advice you could give someone trying to get into your area of expertise?
Having a solid grounding in the relevant manufacturing processes within your supply chain will greatly assist you in understanding the complexities of implementing a sustainability program at the factory level. This will also be beneficial for addressing sustainability at higher levels within any product intensive organization.
Thank you Brian and Germaine, for outlining the complex and important challenges faced by housewares makers and importers in today’s global manufacturing and retailing landscape. Retailer requirements and consumer expectations mean that companies in this consumer products industry have special needs. We look forward to your joint presentation for crucial information that will alert audiences to how they should prepare.
To learn more about SGS’s services, see www.sgsgroup.us.com or contact Michael Richardson, Consumer Testing Services, LCA & Sustainable Design Senior Project Manager at 973-461-1517, Michael.Richardson2@sgs.com