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BRC product standard cracks America

Partnership will create a global manufacturing standard for consumer goods

A British Retail Consortium (BRC) product standard is poised to crack America. A significant new partnership with North America's leading retail trade association is likely to lead to some of the world's biggest retailers requiring their consumer products suppliers to show they meet the BRC safety standard.

The BRC and Retail Industry-Leaders Association (RILA) are signing the agreement as parts of new US safety legislation come into force (Tuesday 10 February 2009). The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) requires retailers there to sell only products meeting safety standards and obtain certificates of conformity for each batch of imported products.

The BRC standard will help retailers comply with the new regulations which follow a number of incidents in recent years involving the safety of products including toys, cribs, jewellery and computer batteries. Previously individual retailers set and enforced their own standards. Now major names including Costco, Penny's and Wal-Mart will begin to require suppliers to show they are BRC certificated.

Certification is an effective and cost efficient way for retailers to establish confidence in products and reduces the burden of multiple audits for suppliers. Ultimately it will improve the safety of consumer products for customers.

The support of American retailers is a crucial step in establishing the BRC Consumer Product Standard as a worldwide product safety standard.

Dr. Geoff Spriegel, Director of BRC Global Standards, said:

“The complex nature of supply chains for consumer products means that, to be fully effective, the Consumer Product Standard needs the backing of a critical mass of retailers. The support of US retailers provides a major boost to the development of the consumer product scheme which could eventually exceed the uptake of the highly successful Food Standard.”

In 1998 the BRC established a technical standard for retailers to use with food suppliers and manufacturers. Today the majority of UK, and many European and global, retailers will only consider relationships with food suppliers that have this sort of certification. Given the success of the BRC Global Standard for Food, the BRC has established additional industry standards for operations including packaging, storage and distribution and consumer products. Each of these standards is reviewed and fully revised and updated every three years.

Sandy Kennedy, President of the Retail Industry-Leaders Association, said:

“The retail industry is committed to ensuring the products that enter its supply chain are designed and manufactured to ensure the utmost safety. A meaningful and attainable global standard for consumer goods will strengthen existing protocols and establish a new bar by which manufacturing operations are measured.”

Liz Kinloch, Group Technical & Trading Law Director at Tesco plc and Chair of the BRC Global Standards Governance and Strategy Committee, said:

“Tesco's reputation depends on the quality and safety of the things we sell. Over the last 10 years the BRC Global Standards have significantly aided the development of more effective product safety systems by suppliers.

“The standards help retailers adopt a consistent approach to the management of their supply base, form a major component of a retailer's risk assessment of its suppliers and assist retailers to meet their legal obligations. The certification of over 14,000 suppliers around the world is a clear indication of their value.”

Sean Allam, Head of Product Sourcing at John Lewis, said:

“John Lewis has always strived to minimise the risks in its supply chain for its customers and as such has supported the BRC in the development of the consumer products standard. By working together I believe manufacturers and retailers can significantly improve the safety and consistency of product.

“Not surprisingly suppliers, as we have seen in the food industry, are reluctant to invest in multiple standards and approval schemes so it's essential that the industry sets minimum standards that can be universally supported and applied.”

Registration of their certification on the BRC database enables suppliers to promote their technical credentials to potential new customers.

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