Toys go green, but are they safe?


Toys go green, but are they safe?

The sustainability mega-trend hasn’t missed the toy market. Today’s eco-conscious consumers have put toy makers under pressure to produce products that are sustainable, but the reality is that very few toys can be recycled. Most are made from a combination of plastics, metals, and other components that most recycling companies don’t accept. To put a number to it, experts suggest that the toy industry alone is on track to produce more than one million tons of plastic waste annually from 2023. In the face of this staggering plastics problem, the sustainable toy market is growing, valued at US$19 million in 2020 and forecast to reach US$60 million by 2030.

Environmental responsibility isn’t the only driving force behind the rise of green toys. Consumers have become more aware of the health effects of toxic chemicals and materials found in products intended for children and are demanding alternatives. Technological and material innovations have also advanced the sustainability quest, but obstacles remain in sourcing and testing. Furthermore, a combination of kids being stuck at home and eco-anxiety caused by the pandemic has accelerated consumer appetite for made-to-last, planet-friendly toys.

Many of the major players in the toy industry are leading the way to reduce the environmental impact of toys. The Lego Group is on a challenging mission to make all its core products out of sustainable materials by 2030, and by 2025, all its packaging will be made from renewable or recycled materials. The brand has also introduced an initiative (Lego Replay) that invites children to donate their pre-loved Lego bricks to children in need. Mattel Inc. has expanded its Mattel Playback program, which allows consumers to send back a broad range of Mattel toys for recycling and reuse. The brand has also introduced certified carbon-neutral toys and aims to use entirely recycled, recyclable, or bio-based plastics in all its toys and packaging by 2030.

It may be recycled, but is it safe?

Consumers naturally expect safe products from the brands they trust—especially those targeting children. When implementing sustainable materials and processes, toy brands must ensure that they’re not introducing products that may be dangerous for children. Toxic chemicals in toys are of particular concern, especially those made for kids under 3 because of their mouthing and rapid metabolic rate, high surface area to body weight ratio, and rapid physical development. The product safety risks of toys made with sustainability in mind include:

  • Recycled materials, such as plastic, may contain toxic chemicals due to exposure during the recycling process.
  • Toys made from recycled plastic may contain toxic chemicals such as flame-retardants (PBDEs, HBCDs) or POPs (persistent organic pollutants).
  • Sustainable toys may also contain toxic materials like lead paint on wooden toys.
  • Different mechanical properties may introduce risks: for example, a sustainable product may be more brittle and not pass all tests.
  • It’s difficult to be sure where old materials came from, and they may contain unknown chemical sources.

Most toy safety testing relates to chemicals, and any substances found to be potentially damaging to human health are immediately banned from the industry. Regulation in this area is increasing and becoming more expensive and challenging to navigate. A third-party expert can help you determine which tests are required based on your BOM and materials and work with you to streamline the testing process. This will not only enable you to stay ahead of regulations and avoid costly risks but will, most importantly, put your customers’ health and wellbeing first. It will also give you visibility over your supply chain so you can anticipate and manage risks throughout the product life cycle.


Missteps can be costly, and they do happen. In 2022, 213 toy products were recalled in Europe because of chemical risks.

By not actively managing your chemical risks, you risk a lot more: your brand reputation. After consumer trust satisfaction plummets, it can be a tall and expensive mountain to climb to win that trust back—especially for toy companies that are perceived to not care about the wellbeing of children. Mattel Inc., the largest brand in the US, recalled millions of toys in 2007 due to hazards from small, powerful magnets and lead paint. The recall costs and lawsuits have cost the brand over US$100 million, but the damage to brand reputation may cost them for many years to come.

How can toy brands align their sustainability efforts with the importance of product safety? Compliance is essential, but it’s only the starting block. Supply chain visibility, improved traceability, and scientific methods that help verify the origin of new materials and the potential presence of harmful substances can help you anticipate risks early on and focus on the areas where risks are highest, ultimately saving you time and money.

Chemical Risk Assessment is the identification and mapping of product risks based on:

  • Materials
  • Product group: e.g., toys for under 3 years
  • Factory performance: an audit be performed within the last 12 months
  • Industry insights: e.g., product recalls or newly banned substances

This risk-based approach allows you to maximize safety while managing costs.

API’s specialized solutions for sustainable toys

At API, we combine our on-the-ground experience with our scientific expertise in an end-to-end approach, allowing you to create more sustainable products that are still safe to use. Some of our specialized solutions include:

  • Chemical Risk Assessment
  • Traceability and increased visibility over your entire supply chain
  • rPET testing, advanced testing that verifies and quantifies rPET in products to ensure your recycled polyester claims are genuine.  
  • Chem Scan Check™, a new testing approach that detects more than 250 chemical substances in one test.

Interested in finding out more about how our safety solutions can benefit your brand?


It all boils down to safety: Reducing the risks of sustainable kitchenware

Blog - It all boils down to safety: Reducing the risks of sustainable kitchenware

The global sustainability movement has also led consumers to pursue safe and reliable kitchen products that positively impact the planet. While consumers once shared a concern about risks associated with non-stick or aluminum materials, brands are now focusing on recycled materials and sustainable processes and whether they’re introducing new risks to kitchenware safety.

Demand for home cookware products is skyrocketing due to everything from the rise of home cooking during the pandemic to the growing popularity of cooking shows and modular kitchens. Consumers everywhere have been busy trying new recipes, improving their skills, and looking to replace their old cookware with new items.

Food Contact / Kitchenware - A highly regulated industry

The kitchen utensils and cookware segment has long been highly regulated, with strict standards in place to ensure products don’t jeopardize the health and safety of consumers. Since kitchenware often comes into direct contact with food, one of the key risks centers on the potential presence of chemicals in these materials that could potentially migrate to the foods they touch. Consumers tend to trust that the products they purchase are safe, but how can they be certain – especially amid constant changes to materials and processes driven by the sustainability push?

Most countries around the world have strict regulations for products and materials that come into contact with food, and the rules vary based on the country and material. For instance, products sold in the EU and the US need to follow regulations such as the EC No. 1935/2004 (the EU) and the FDA 21 CFR (the US). Different countries in the EU have additional regulations, such as the LFGB Law in Germany and the DGCCRF recommendations in France.

These regulations typically cover the most common kitchenware materials, such as plastics, silicone and rubbers, metals and alloys, ceramics, wood, paper and board, and varnishing and end coating. The specific criteria depends not only on the type of material but its intended use. For example, a regulation may consider whether a container is plastic or ceramic and if it’s intended to be used for aqueous food such as water or coffee, acidic foods like juice, or alcoholic beverages like beer or wine, and if it’s designed for hot or cold.

It might seem surprising, but risks are still identified today in destination markets, even for well-known brands. Such events can not only damage the brand’s image but can also generate additional risks if the brand is subject to a fine or a product recall. Not even major brands are immune to product recalls, such as the global furniture and décor brand that had a mug recalled from the market that was found to be potentially migrating excessive levels of dibutyl phthalate (DBP).

Sustainable materials and harmful substances

While the global shift toward sustainable products and a circular economy is great news for the planet, it’s bringing with it new risks that may put product safety in danger. As one of many examples, the use of recycled materials is subject to risks due to the lack of visibility over the materials’ origin and the potential use of harmful chemicals in the transformation of raw materials to finished goods.

So, how can brands align their quest for increased sustainability with the importance of product safety? Clear visibility over the supply chain, improved traceability, and scientific methods that help verify the origin of new materials and the potential presence of harmful substances are some of the trends gaining traction to ensure a future that’s both sustainable and safe.

Other risks to think about

While chemical risks often come to mind first when discussing food contact materials, kitchen accessories have some associated physical risks related to fatigue, corrosion, and heat resistance as well as thermal hazards. Simply put, they need to fit their expected use, meaning if they’re marketed as microwave-safe or dishwasher-resistant, they must be able to handle the heat or water without breaking or suffering damage. Physical risks are also frequently identified in the kitchenware market, with the most common recalls including the risk of injury and burns due to products breaking under heat exposure, or laceration hazards resulting from product cracks.

Going beyond compliance

The kitchen utensils and accessories industry is highly competitive, with numerous brands competing for consumer attention amid constant product redevelopments and price battles. This adds additional complexity for brands and retailers, highlighting the importance of innovation and fit-for-use to bring products to the market that meet consumer expectations.

In this challenging environment in which supply chains are under constant pressure and shipping delays put delivery times at risk, ensuring product quality and safety before the end of production is key, so you ‘get it right the first time.’

API’s specialized solutions for kitchenware

API helps brands and retailers ensure their kitchenware’s safety, quality, and performance with tailor-made solutions. Some of our key areas of support include:

  • Laboratory testing: Testing according to EU/US or country-based directives to maintain chemical and physical safety, as well as testing with specific protocols to ensure performance and fit-for-use.

    Two of our latest innovations to support brands and retailers in their sustainability journeys include:
    – Recycled polyester testing to verify and quantify the amount of recycled polyester in your products.
    – Chem Scan Check – a scientific screening method that can detect 285+ substances in a single test to ensure there are no unexpected harmful substances.

  • Product development support: Identification of critical areas and recommendations for adjustment at the design or purchase stage.
  • Technical Compliance File: Documentation review that attests product compliance according to protocol definitions, from document collection and verification to report issuance.
  • Factory audits: Factory evaluations that assess factory capabilities to meet production standards and deliver safe products on time.
  • Dedicated programs: Bespoke programs based on each client’s needs that provide support at every stage of the supply chain.

Interested in learning more about API’s kitchenware solutions?


Today’s socially conscious consumers want more than just a product, and here’s why brands must adapt

Today’s socially conscious consumers want more than just a product, and here’s why brands must adapt

In the last few years, we have seen companies and brands increasingly change the way they operate. The views of the customer are evolving and companies and brands need to adapt quickly. The coronavirus pandemic catalyzed a debate about the broader impact of human actions, with people concerned about the way we live, issues of social justice, and our destruction of the environment.

Increasingly, customers value companies and brands they can trust. Today’s consumer wants to purchase from companies and brands that are transparent in their work, create an impact, offer sustainable alternatives to regular products, and are vocal about causes that matter. Consumers have rising concerns about climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and the wider well-being of society. These changing behaviors and values regarding environmental friendliness, social responsibility, and economic inclusiveness translate into a demand for corporate change.

In the last few years, we have seen companies and brands increasingly change the way they operate. The views of the customer are evolving and companies and brands need to adapt quickly. The coronavirus pandemic catalyzed a debate about the broader impact of human actions, with people concerned about the way we live, issues of social justice, and our destruction of the environment. Increasingly, customers value companies and brands they can trust. Today’s consumer wants to purchase from companies and brands that are transparent in their work, create an impact, offer sustainable alternatives to regular products, and are vocal about causes that matter. Consumers have rising concerns about climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, resource scarcity and the wider well-being of society. These changing behaviors and values regarding environmental friendliness, social responsibility, and economic inclusiveness translate into a demand for corporate change

Source: How sustainability is fundamentally changing consumer preferences – Capgemini

The global consumer goods industry is increasingly implicated in the debate because it faces significant challenges of its own and because many of its consumers are leading the movement for change. According to the Capgemini Research Institute, 79% of consumers are changing purchase preference based on the social responsibility, inclusiveness or environmental impact of their purchases.

Most companies, regardless of their size, are realizing the importance of creating products that show their brand positioning as a company that cares for the causes close to their heart. From environmental issues to social justice, it comes down to simply making a difference.

Additionally, there is increasing pressure from countries and NGOs, with continuous initiatives to reinforce control and ensure more responsible practices. The European Commission, for instance, recently proposed an import ban on products manufactured using forced labor, a proposal that still requires discussion and agreement by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union before it is legislated, but that demonstrates the mechanisms under consideration to stop forced labor and modern slavery.

Frequent industry issues and the growing initiatives against

While there has been great improvement in recent years, the industry still struggles with ethical issues. Some of the most frequent issues found in the fashion industry include low wages, child labor, animal cruelty, health and safety risks, and environmental issues. The list, unfortunately, goes on.

Some initiatives for change could include:

  • Checking the material and product sources.
  • Repurposing old items and using pieces of them to create other products.
  • Supporting Community Fair Trade (different programs).
  • Supporting Ethical Trade (Ethical Trade Program, Supplier Code of Conduct).
  • Creating inclusive pieces that can be available for everyone. 
  • Changing packing in favor of more sustainable solutions. 
  • Taking a stand in helping the planet and being overall more environmentally conscious: generating less waste, reduction of CO2 emissions, electricity consumption, increasing the amount of recyclable material, decreasing unnecessary packaging materials. 
  • Being open about values, mission, and what they stand for while also taking action in these areas.
  • Taking a stand against animal cruelty.
  • Better treatment of workers.

The industry-wide initiatives around sustainability and CSR are endless, and these examples can be considered as good starting points.

There are many industry initiatives and reference tools that set the guidelines and requirements brands must follow to be more socially and environmentally responsible. Some of the most well-known ones include:

  • Sedex: Supplier Ethical Data Exchange
  • ICS: Initiative for Compliance and Sustainability
  • SLCP: The Social and Labor Convergence Program
  • ILO Conventions: International Labour Organization Conventions

How Our Expert Support Can Help You

At API, we provide expert solutions to support our customers in their CSR journey. Some of our programs include:

  •  Social audit assessment:
    – As per the defined code of conduct (ICS, Sedex, SCLP, ILO Conventions)
    – Tailor-made based on industry / your code of conduct / API’s standards and local labor laws
  • Supplier capacity building
    – Different programs for different suppliers (new, strategic, low performing, those with zero tolerance, however willing to improve, etc.)
  • Stake holders coaching
    – Awareness and pre-assessment set-up program for internal teams (audit, sourcing…)
  • Code of conduct, manual, audit guidelines creation & review
    – Creation from ground zero and based on your requirements, or review of existing materials – all with the support of our team of experts
  • Program benchmarking services for strategic suppliers
    – Assessment and program recommendation, report, monitoring

    Thanks to our boots-on-the-ground approach, we offer adapted solutions to our customers that go beyond the traditional industry standards. We put our expertise at the service of our customers with concrete solutions that leverage our daily presence in factories, such as follow-up on sustainability. 

Interested in finding out more about our CSR solutions?


Taking the complexity out of compliance

All brands and retailers are obligated to ensure their products are compliant with the relevant standards and regulations in their destination markets. However, many factors make compliance a tricky task, including increasingly strict regulations and picking stores by local authorities, the need for improved traceability and records, and the large number of references requiring time and technical expertise.

In Europe alone, 2142 alerts were issued through Safety Gate in 2021 for products at risk of non-compliance. Among the most notified categories was consumer goods, including toys and electrical appliances.

Source: Safety Gate Annual Report 2021

While the types of risks varied, the most notified included:

Although most brands and retailers are conscious of the importance of bringing safe and compliant products to the market, defining the applicable scope across numerous product categories requires expertise. On top of this, gathering all the necessary documentation from various supply chain stakeholders can be overwhelmingly time-consuming. This administrative burden also attracts its own risks and the need for technical review, as nearly one document in every three evaluated by our experts is found to be non-compliant. In many instances, it isn’t easy to handle this process internally because of issues such as:

  • Complexity with keeping records up to date
  • Multiplicity of suppliers with different maturity and contacts (to be competitive and ensure effective pricing, brands tend to diversify)
  • Numerous documents requiring the right expertise, including knowing the applicable regulations to ask for the appropriate documents
  • No dedicated team: Considered a dull, administrative task by brand engineers but cannot be completed by someone without technical knowledge
  • Process too slow vs. rotation of collections too fast
  • Significant time required
  • No proper interface to coordinate document collection and review
Helping you bring to the market safe and compliant products

To alleviate this challenge, API has a dedicated solution – the Technical Compliance File (TCF). The TCF is a digital ID of your product and its proven compliance with the latest applicable standards and regulations, including:

  • Applicable protocols
  • Document validation/rejection
  • Validity over time

With more than 15 years’ experience developing TCF solutions, we help brands and retailers save time and money on this necessary task. We offer support with:

  • Setting adequate procedures
  • Defining the relevant scope of compliance
  • Helping establish additional quality and safety criteria that go beyond compliance
  • Collecting and validating a high volume of documents quickly
  • Gathering all the documents in one place (available for 10 years)
  • Corrective actions and suggestion for artworks.
  • Monitor the relevancy of the scope in the context of regulation changes.

In addition to our experts’ regulatory guidance, brands appreciate the minimal investment required, enjoy a higher degree of control with our clear digital platform, and are ultimately ready to provide the valid required documentation in cases of custom verification.


Reliable proof and increased visibility made easier


Cost and time savings
(vs. internally handled)

Internal resources allocation in strategic tasks

Fast reply to authorities
(documents available in one click)

Increased consumer satisfaction

Our easy-to-use TCF platform

Leveraging our years of experience in offering this service and valuable feedback from our clients, we have designed a user-friendly platform that supports our TCF solutions, which enables you to continually keep your eye on files in progress, those completed, and those expiring soon.

The platform introduces a new way to manage documentation, proving compliance with increased visibility on products and status, such as:

  • Quality overview of your products
  • Document status and tracking
  • Alerts management
  • Regulatory watch

Suppliers can now benefit from this convenient system by uploading the documents required to complete a TCF, receiving regular updates about a TCF status, and guidance from our experts on the next steps needed for any rejected documentation.

Interested in finding out more about how our TCF solutions can help your brand?


Updated standard EN 14749+A1:2022


An update of the European Standard EN 14749: 2016 was released in May, introducing the EN 14749+A1:2022 : Furniture – Domestic and kitchen storage units and kitchen-worktops – Safety requirements and test methods. This is one of the primary reference standards for the certification of furniture used in the home. It establishes some changes to the safety requirements and test methods for household and kitchen storage furniture and kitchen workshops.

Some of the key changes include:

  • Completion of the definition part.
  • Some additional tests and markings in the new amendment for TV furniture.
  • New markings for all types of storage units: Any unit intended to be attached to the building shall be supplied with installation instructions.

This standard will replace the previous version from November 30, 2022. If a storage unit is imported to Europe after the date of withdrawal, a EN 14749+A1:2022 test report shall be provided when it’s controlled by market surveillance.

Our experts at API can help support your transition to this or any other regulatory changes.

Do you need more information about this or any other standards?


Leveraging the power of customer reviews

Consumers have always had the power to vote with their wallets and decide what they do and don’t buy. But in today’s online world, they have the power to not only influence what they buy but what others buy.

Empowered by the connectivity of social networks and the democratization of information, consumers are taking control of where, when, and how they engage with brands. This has effectively given consumers a role in the supply chain as they demand more personalized products and expect brands to adapt to their needs.

Now they have been given a voice, consumers are increasingly willing to share their opinions publicly and seek out what others have to say. In some categories, consumers are reluctant to make purchases without independent recommendations. This has not only disrupted the traditional purchasing process but puts additional pressure on brands, who need to ensure they bring to the market products that live up to their promises.

According to a report from the technology company PowerReviews, customer reviews have become the single most important factor when making purchasing decisions, ranking above other elements such as price and recommendations from family and friends. 

How to make customer reviews work for your brand

One of the key benefits of reviews is that this feedback lets brands know whether a product is relevant to its audience and whether it’s better than its competitors’.

Although positive reviews can naturally benefit brands in enormous ways, negative product reviews can have drastic impacts. They can not only affect the sales of the product but can escalate to the point of harming the brand image as a whole.

That said, bad reviews also provide an opportunity to improve and show customers that the brand is actively listening and willing to bring improved products to the market that aligns with customers’ quality and safety expectations. Customer reviews can also help find niches in the market yet to be explored, based on what customers feel is missing in a product or would be nice to have.

Navigating the masses of online reviews and identifying real issues and their root causes to make valuable improvements is not always easy. It might require support from a third party who can assess and identify issues and establish the appropriate recommendations. 

Turning negative reviews into positive outcomes

At API, we help our customers improve quality and safety at the product development stage to meet consumer expectations through a dedicated program that uses five steps to:

  • help brands and retailers listen to and understand consumer feedback
  • identify the causes of bad ratings
  • establish recommendations for product improvements

What are the benefits for brands?
  • Better and differentiated products
  • Increased quality and safety
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Supplier empowerment
  • Better budget allocation

Interested in finding out how API can help you bring better products to the market? 


How to get your outdoor furniture summer-ready for next season

Blog - How to get your outdoor furniture summer-ready for next season

Summer is just around the corner, and as customers get their gardens, terraces, and balconies ready for the balmy months, outdoor furniture brands and retailers are already preparing their collections for next year’s season. Demand for outdoor furniture has soared as a result of the pandemic, but the industry hasn’t escaped the supply chain crisis that began in 2020. Two years on, the journey from raw materials to the end customer remains challenging and lengthy.


While increased demand is great news for the outdoor furniture industry, this has led to a backlog of orders and tasks that has been difficult to manage. While business is returning to normal in prominent manufacturing countries like China, Vietnam, and Indonesia, manufacturers are still facing delays and the scarcity of raw materials needed to build the furniture. Furthermore, once the product is ready, it still needs to reach the consumer, and shipping times remain long with container shortages and products getting caught in the supply chain traffic jam. With no option to delay the outdoor furniture season, products must arrive on time, or businesses risk losing customers to competitors.


That said, the arrival of products on time isn’t enough to satisfy increasingly demanding consumers. According to the Outdoor Garden Furniture market study by Fact.MR (Feb 2022), consumers desire outdoor furniture that is:

  • Resistant to climate conditions
  • Good quality
  • Durable
  • Insect and mold resistant
  • Crack-proof
  • Sustainable (using eco-friendly materials and processes)


What does this mean for brands and retailers? Businesses need to operate speedily while ensuring the quality and fit-for-use of their products, which means that getting things right the first time and anticipating mistakes has never been more crucial.

How to ensure quality outdoor furniture from the beginning

The best way to get outdoor furniture products right the first time is to detect issues as early as possible in the supply chain. The easiest way to achieve this is to go upstream and anticipate risks from the earliest stages of raw materials and manufacturing.

Key points to look at include:

  • Ensuring you have the right design
  • Ensuring product compliance
  • Ensuring the right production process
  • Defining the right control plan

Utilizing the support of a third party can help brands and retailers address these challenges while relying on an independent expert to secure product quality and fit-for-use. This will reduce issues at the end of the supply chain, avoid delays, and satisfy customers with products that arrive on time and meet their expectations.

At API, we provide comprehensive expert solutions for outdoor furniture. With more than 25 years’ experience and a portfolio of international brands and retailers that trust our knowledge, our suite of solutions is dedicated to securing the quality, safety, and performance of outdoor furniture products across the entire supply chain from the earliest stages of development. Some of these include:

  • Help during product development
    Ensure better products from the early stages of development through:

    • Raw material traceability
    • Suggestions on sustainable processes
    • Suggestions on product improvement
    • Validation of control plans, marking, product characteristics, golden sample
    • And more 
  • Design/prototype review at the factory or lab
    This includes expert reviews at the factory, showroom, or at our network of laboratories at the moment of product selection, including conformity criteria, risk and issues anticipation, and recommendations for improvements. 
  • Sample validation
    Validation of a final sample before production will define the model to follow and ensure the rest of the production is manufactured according to the brand specifications. 
  • In-production process assessment and root cause analysis
    This aims at understanding the processes for improved finished products with a high focus on identifying, assessing, and improving the manufacturing methods critical to quality and safety to prevent failures. 
  • Fit-for-use and performance testing
    Evaluate your products’ performance and durability, including:
    • Resistance to aggressive environments
    • Corrosion, UV aging, rain and water resistance, heat resistance, etc.
    • Usage resistance (scratches, stains, washing, tearing, metal finishing adherence, etc.)
    • Product feel and support
    • Textile performance
    • And more
  • Recycled polyester testing
    This scientific method verifies and quantifies the amount of recycled polyester in products to ensure what you bring to the market while supporting your marketing claims. 
  • During production inspection
    Inspection of the finished goods at 5% or 10% of the production completion will identify issues early in the production line.

Interested in finding out more about how API can help your brand with our adapted outdoor furniture solutions?


An empowered supplier is a competitive ace card

Brands and retailers can have relationships with a great number of suppliers, which can reach in the thousands for the bigger players. When the volume is that high, it can be difficult to think of individual suppliers as anything more than a transactional necessity for the manufacturing of hardline goods. But brands and retailers that see their suppliers this way may miss out on what their more reliable and advanced suppliers can offer them.

Increasing numbers of brands and retailers are looking for ways to empower their suppliers, but this is easier said than done. Effective buyer and supplier collaboration is not only about open communication across the entire supply chain, it’s about enabling the suppliers to feel they can share ideas and make recommendations as the true owners of hardline product quality.

While working with empowered suppliers is the ultimate goal, the path to getting there isn’t always straightforward and should be broken down into smaller goals. Some of the most common challenges brands and retailers face when looking to empower their suppliers include:

  • Easy to say, but not to do
  • Time-consuming
  • Empowerment is based on trust but needs a system for monitoring
  • Reluctance from some factories
  • Unclear quality liability

Supplier empowerment: Where to begin
It’s important to keep in mind that empowering your suppliers means being in direct contact with them. Using intermediaries that muddy the waters can complicate the task and make it more difficult. Another question to ask is whether all your suppliers can be empowered. To answer this, you need to have a clear understanding of your supply chain. The factories most likely to align with your expectations will be the more strategic and trusted ones with a long-term approach. These are usually factories with a solid QMS and with whom there’s already fluid communication, a solid investment, and projects demonstrating growth to make this commercial relationship last.

You can start by asking some simple questions:

  • Are you working directly with factories or through vendors?
  • Do you have top factories that you work with?
  • Do you have long-term partners?
  • Do you have a stable sourcing strategy? Or do you shift countries frequently?
  • Do you create partnerships with your manufacturers?
  • What incentives will you bring to the factory? Will you bring more orders?

As essential as it is to understand where you stand before launching an empowerment program, it’s equally important to make factories understand the benefits for them. Among other elements, advantages for empowered suppliers include:

  • Less external control
  • Cost and time savings
  • Improved quality processes and production output
  • Improved partnerships with customers that can result in more orders

Supplier empowerment: Implementing an effective program

Empowering suppliers also offers significant benefits to brands and retailers of hardline goods. It allows for better resource optimization, going further upstream, and doing more quality assurance, ultimately reducing costs and allocating budget to areas of risk. The final objective would be to replace third-party inspections by shifting quality ownership to the suppliers. This would increase efficiency and ensure continuity, even during disruptions like those we saw in the last couple of years.

Brands and retailers with a solid quality management team can put all this in place through their internal teams, allocating time and resources to train and monitor their selected suppliers. That said, this sort of program, while worthwhile, isn’t easy to implement. It’s a time-consuming process that requires constant follow-up and a strong and comprehensive setup. Continuous monitoring is also necessary to ensure that factories are qualified and maintain expected quality standards.

Brands and retailers have the option to bring in additional resources and use a qualified third party to take charge of the program instead of allocating it to an internal team.

A 7-step program: The ‘Factory Certified Auditor Program’

At API, we support our clients’ supplier empowerment strategies as part of our global risk-based approach. We’ve implemented a 7-step program, the ‘Factory Certified Auditor Program,’ designed to empower the best-performing suppliers to perform their own inspections. The 7-step program covers:

  1. Program introduction to vendors
  2. On-site assessment
  3. Validation and training
  4. Examination
  5. Correlation & probation
  6. Certification
  7. Monitoring

Why should brands and retailers follow this program?

  • Expert guidance: Industry experts introduce additional resources and external inputs when developing and implementing the program.
  • Flexible and reliable: Training is prepared by industry experts according to customer needs and what’s already in place with multinational brands.
  • Continuous monitoring: Regular monitoring ensures that factories are well qualified and maintain good quality standards.
  • Increased quality, lower costs: Externalization of training and alignment with vendors aim to shift quality ownership in harmony with brand requirements.
  • Neutral partner: An external, neutral agent can intervene as needed with no conflict of interest.
  • Complete or partial manager participation: Managers can partake in 100% of the program or only the stages requiring reinforcement.

Interested in learning how API can help your supplier empowerment strategy?


Sustainability science: ensure your recycled polyester claims are genuine

According to Precedence Research, the recycled polyester (rPET) market is expected to hit US$14.23 billion by 2030, driven by soaring demand for sustainable products from consumers, governments, and NGOs. The use of rPET in consumer goods is no longer a trend but a reality in many categories, including toys and furniture. What started with soft toys containing stuffing made from rPET is fast-evolving into other uses. Danish toy giant Lego has announced its first prototype bricks made of rPET from discarded bottles, and IKEA has launched a range of kitchen furniture with plastic films made out of recycled bottles. Many other furniture brands are producing products made from rPET, including chairs and stools, storage boxes, bathroom accessories, and more.

Amid this rise in environmentally conscious consumerism, sustainability has become a powerful marketing tool in a crowded marketplace. But as green consumers become more informed and critical, brands and retailers must be able to back up the use of rPET in their products with proof to avoid risks of reputational damage and noncompliance. Until now, the primary way to verify the inclusion of rPET in products was to rely on declarations and documents from suppliers and third parties. By betting solely on someone else’s information, however, brands risk greenwashing (claiming something as sustainable when it isn’t) and breaching regulations (the EU and GRS-V3 impose a minimum recycled polyester content of 20%).

What is recycled polyester, and why is it so popular?

To create virgin polyester (PET) –the world’s most common plastic—crude oil and natural gas are extracted from the earth and heated to form a molten liquid. The liquid is spun into fibers to create polyester fabric or molded into plastic containers. These products aren’t biodegradable and will persist in the environment, even as they eventually break down. Recycled polyester (rPET) originates mostly from post-consumer PET bottles that are melted down and re-spun into new polyester fibers. One tonne of rPET saves 11,100kWh of energy—the equivalent of two years of energy consumption for an average household. Each kilogram of mechanically recycled polyester also represents a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by more than 70% compared with virgin polyester.

A scientific solution to verify recycled polyester

The only way to be 100% sure that the amount of rPET in your products matches what your brand claims is through reliable scientific testing. As part of a continuing commitment to helping brands achieve growth through sustainability innovations, API and Worms Safety Laboratories have pioneered an innovative solution that detects and quantifies rPET in products and materials to prove its existence and avoid greenwashing. The accurate testing method is based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) technology, which is highly sensitive, robust, precise, auto-calibrated, and not affected by additional chemical substances such as dyes, viscose, or others. In simple terms, the process targets the presence of isophthalic acid (IPA), which is added to PET to give specific properties to the raw material. This superior testing method uses NMR technology to compare the IPA content in each sample to the average IPA content derived from a reference database of bottles collected in Europe, China, and India. More information about the rPET testing can be found here.

More accurate than any other method

Other methods are available to measure IPA content, including Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, Raman, Liquid Chromatography, and Gas Chromatography. However, common disadvantages of these processes include the generally higher uncertainty of the testing equipment and the sensitivity to other substances present in the sample. The solution developed by API and Worms Safety Laboratories is highly sensitive and specific, with low detection limits and greater certainty. The PET bottle reference library is continually monitored and updated, and any changes in PET quality on the market is reflected in the test results.

Interested in learning more about how this solution can benefit your brand?


The drive toward sustainable packaging

We live in an era in which sustainability has never been more important in every step of the supply chain. Today’s consumers increasingly demand products that have a reduced impact on the environment, which includes eco-friendly packaging. In the toy industry, this has driven major manufacturers like Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, and MGA Entertainment to make pledges to reduce their packaging and make the switch to recycled or eco-friendly materials.

We’re seeing the same pattern in other industries, such as furniture. Swedish giant IKEA is aiming to eliminate plastic packaging from most of its products by 2025. Players such as Amazon have also joined the movement, with its ‘Frustration-Free Packaging’ that helps brands produce less waste than traditional packaging by redesigning their packaging, eliminating waste throughout the supply chain, and ensuring that products arrive undamaged on customers’ doorsteps.

The goal of these initiatives is to tackle the harmful impacts of plastic packaging on the environment in favor of alternative solutions with less impact.

The problem with plastic

Each year, around eight million tons of plastic waste end up in the world’s oceans. Forbes has reported that plastic trash is found in the guts of more than 90% of the world’s sea birds, in the stomachs of more than half of the world’s sea turtles, and is contributing to the deaths of whales. It’s predicted that, by 2050, the mass of plastic in the world’s oceans will exceed the mass of all the fish that live there. Plastic packaging can take thousands of years to decompose in the environment and also takes a great deal of energy, water, and other natural resources to produce.

These sobering figures have made many consumers deeply concerned about plastic packaging finding its way into the environment, and eco-conscious consumers will choose brands that are working to address this impact over those that aren’t.

The role of legislation

Alongside pressure from consumers and NGOs, multiple laws and regulations are being introduced to find a solution to the plastic problem.

Many governments have formulated systems that support a circular economy and reduce their national waste. The extent of these requirements varies among countries, but overall, we’re seeing increasing numbers of regulations aimed at reducing the use of packaging and promoting more sustainable packaging materials.

In Europe, the Waste Framework Directive establishes measures for dealing with waste, while the Packaging and Packaging Waste Directive intends to harmonize the management of packaging waste and prevent or reduce the impacts of packaging and packaging waste, including by setting recovery and recycling targets.

There are also regulations specific to certain nations, such as the UK’s plastic packaging tax that came into force on April 1, 2022. The UK Plastic Packaging Tax (PPT) affects businesses that manufacture or import plastic packaging, including packaging that already contains goods (such as plastic bottles containing beverages). The tax aims to encourage the use of recycled rather than virgin plastic in packaging (when permitted) and stimulate the increase in recycling and collection of plastic waste. You can learn more about it here.

In March 2020, France adopted Law No. 2020-105 Regarding a Circular Economy and the Fight Against Waste. This law aims at minimizing waste and promoting resources to be reused as much as possible. The economic model targets low consumption of nonrenewable resources, the reuse of waste as a resource, products that have a longer useful life, the recycling of 100% of plastics, and less wastefulness. The law also sets the goal of recycling 100% of plastics by 2025 and the end of single-use plastic packaging by 2040.

In the US, there are also initiatives to reduce plastic consumption and packaging, such as the California plastic waste and labeling bills. These propose several laws that make labeling less misleading and shine a light on the responsibility of packaging producers to find alternatives to single-use, non-recyclable plastics.

The packaging landscape is complex, with growing numbers of regulations and standards to keep in mind that collectively aim to achieve a more sustainable future. With adequate guidance and clear visibility of targets and requirements, brands can prepare to adjust their processes as appropriate and ensure a smooth transition.

At API, we can help you comply with these and other packaging requirements while supporting you in bringing better products to the market. Interested in finding out more?