There are various interpretations of the term quality; however, businesses are now investing in quality for better pay-offs
What comes to mind first when we consider quality of a product? Most likely the level of the product’s fitness or purpose in meeting what consumers want while being free of deficiencies or defects, how the product meets certain standards, provides value or worthiness for money and so on.
It is not easy to define the world ‘quality’ because the concept and vocabulary of quality is elusive. Different people interpret ‘quality’ differently. Therefore ‘quality’ is a much more complicated term than it appears. I am sure we can agree on the basic definition of quality as meeting or exceeding customer/end-user expectations.
The term product quality was revolutionised when businesses decided to view quality as an opportunity rather than cost, and their investment in improving quality generously paid off by gaining a bigger market-share and increased profit. To make this happen, businesses must remain leaders and think outside the box.
Here are six simple steps – questions you should ask yourself, your suppliers and manufacturers - to test the quality of your products:
- Explain how your products are better choices, healthier, avoid waste and so on. Out of the many choices we are flooded with, when it comes down to the products we offer, the goal is to communicate a meaningful connection between our product and our business organisation. Such connection will inspire our current and future customers, and earn the most prestigious asset that is loyalty.
- Analyse and re-evaluate your product, your distributors and manufacturers.
- Are your products durable?
- Have your products received third party certifications that confirm respect to environmental and/or social criteria?
- How about environmental specifications, are the products energy efficient, can they be recycled at the end of the lifecycle and do not contain environmentally harmful products?
- Are they minimally packaged?
- Are your manufacturers and distributors local, and with that are you promoting economic development in your region?
- Do they adhere to standards and practices that recognise worker’s rights? Are they also committed to sustainable development by practicing good environmental and social practices in their operations?
3. Your bragging rights – publicise your efforts and build your brand recognition.
Constant improvements on above mentioned points earn you the right to be proud of your progress. While you rightfully promote yourself, you also take advantage of the opportunity to raise awareness not only about sustainable development but your own business as well to your chosen commitment and your chosen suppliers. This is the best partnership.
When you are consistent in your sustainable initiatives, your good efforts will be appreciated by consumers, the media and investors alike. In addition, your sustainable product offerings will increase your brand recognition.
4. Create your product evaluation checklist
By asking these questions from yourself, your suppliers and manufacturers, you are encouraging responsible thinking about the environment and social impact of the quality of the products, and immediately you and your business take a lead towards sustainability.
5. Here are some suggestions for the quality of product checklists:
- Is the product long lasting, useful, aesthetically pleasing?
- Is the product certified by a recognised standard? If yes, which one?
- Is it recyclable locally?
- Biodegradable, if yes how many years it will take?
- Is it made with minimum of materials?
- Is it made of recycled materials? If yes, what percentage?
- Is the product free of harmful substances?
Manufacturing Process: Does the product involve:
- The use of residues? (eg made of waste woods)
- Less waste?
- Renewable energy?
- Lower carbon footprint than other similar products?
- Water conservation?
- And does this process avoid the use of substances that are potentially harmful to humans and the environment?
Supply chain attributes:
- Is the product locally produced? Where?
- Does the supplier in the supply chain adhere to international labour conventions?
- Is child labour prohibited?
- Are hiring practices non-discriminatory?
- Are working conditions reasonable?
- Are wages adequate to cover the basic needs of workers?
The purpose of the quality guide is to encourage shift towards more responsible procurement practices for products. It defines criteria for products that are more respectful of the environment as well as society.
In return we will:
- Exceed customer expectations. Can give experiences rather than just things, and with that create added value to your clients, your company and society.
- Give a signal to our industry by insisting on eco-friendly options
- Help our suppliers migrate towards sustainable products by requiring certifications for the product (components). By choosing to work with companies that are willing and able to incorporate sustainable practices into their production methods, you help create the ‘right’ competition.
6. Transparency is the key to a sustainable brand’s success
- Consumers want and deserve specifics. Share your evolving efforts publicly on your website, FB page and via Twitter.
- This is the best way to build solid public relations, trust and loyalty.
- The more information we provide about how and where our products are made, more consumers will trust our message.
Products to avoid at all costs are those:
- Without any environmental or social attributes
- Without recycled content
- That can’t be reused or recycled
- With questionable durability
- With very little information on manufacturing conditions – without proper transparency.
Cheers to your quality product offerings and your sustainable brand building!
Clara Puskas is a Toronto-based certified sustainability professional who is continuously investing in her professional development by earning certificates of completions in sustainability courses, which she applies to the kitchen and bath business. She can be reached at email@example.com.