Thursday, on the eve of Earth Day, Polyconcept is set to announce the launch of ProudPath, an online platform designed to help distributors navigate the possibilities and expectations of social and environmental responsibilities.

With an assortment of hundreds of products that are easy to navigate and sales tools to educate and share ideas—including a new eCatalog—ProudPath aims to equip distributors to establish themselves as socially and environmentally responsible leaders in the promotional products marketplace.

Other suppliers have released product transparency scores and information in the past, but the centralized ProudPath represents something innovative. And in business, innovation is so often considered the elusive edge one company is looking for over their competitors.

But Polyconcept’s CEO Neil Ringel doesn’t want platforms like ProudPath to seem innovative for long. If you ask him, he’d prefer that, soon enough, such resource centers become the norm across the promotional products industry. He’s just happy his company—which does business in the U.S. as PCNA (PPAI 113079, S15)—is on the leading edge.

“I mean this sincerely,” Ringel says. “I hope that other suppliers join us on this journey. And I hope that distributors benefit from all of us on this journey.”

Companies across the industry have varying ambitions to work with partners and brands who give back to their communities. They want to work with clients who make clear their stances on social and environmental responsibility or have a diverse ownership team. They want to make sure the products they are putting out in the world are eco-friendly and sustainable. If companies didn’t already want these things for the world they are living in, they are waking up to the fact that it is what their customer-base expects from them. Together, these things make up the five categories that Proud Path assists distributors with.

The portal, built into PCNA’s website, allows distributors to sort through these categories and make sure the promotional products they are creating come from a supplier and manufacturers that are committed to the same causes that they are.

“ProudPath is not the beginning of our efforts in the CSR space, but rather how we see the future in the industry,” Ringel says. “We have an opportunity, all of us, other suppliers and distributors. We have an opportunity to provide an easier way for organizations to build their brand position while meeting their social and environmental objectives.”

PCNA has long had its own near and long-term missions when it comes to corporate social responsibility (some of which have been wrapped into ProudPath), but the new tool is unique in that its aim is to help companies across the industry take a step forward by making these goals easier to organize and sustain.

It doesn’t undermine the necessity of social and environmental responsibility to say that it requires a lot to keep track of and plan for such goals, especially for companies that already must worry about basic business requirements like quality, efficiency and an evolving market. ProudPath’s goal is to serve the same purpose and provide a sort of directory for the crucial responsibilities that go beyond profit margins.

“ProudPath is the first program in the industry where a distributor can take social responsibility to their customer proactively and provide a wide variety of options to meet social, environmental, supply chain or supplier diversity goals that the end user customer might face,” says Holly Brown, Polyconcept’s chief revenue officer. “PCNA is proud and fortunate to work alongside some of the most socially and environmentally conscious brand partners, which in turn, allows the distributor to position ProudPath as a solution to help companies meet their internal benchmarks and goals.”

The April launch is a manifestation of ideas that began percolating back in 2018, when the company’s product design team started pushing them further and further into eco-friendly products and partnering with leaders in sustainability. The response from their distributors was positive and momentum was building just as its human resources team was making new strides in social responsibility and internal DEI platforms. Meanwhile, PCNA’s operations and supply chain team was embracing and adjusting to new 2025 sustainability goals. All of this simultaneous progress eventually led to the undertaking of creating ProudPath and becoming a resource for the industry to improve in these issues.

“I mean, everybody’s pitching in,” Ringel says. “It really has been a total team effort. And I'm really unbelievably proud of our team.”

Such large undertakings tend to require that sort of organic alignment of values, and for as much as these issues are important to customers, they are largely the sort of things that our current, slightly younger, workforce expects from their companies, and Polyconcept is no different. Of course it’s important for companies to have missions that they stand for, but employees in today’s workforce have a sense of what is important to them, and that’s its own kind of resource.

“Hire great people who are passionate about what they do,” advises Ringel. “And they will deliver beyond your expectations.”

That philosophy led to ProudPath and its potential to help distributors execute on similar goals.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us to change the trajectory of the industry we serve, moving from companies that contribute to landfills, to companies and organizations that care, source responsibly, create quality solutions for those we serve, and create a better world and better companies for the next generation,” says Liz Haesler, chief merchandising officer.

For PCNA, ProudPath is not just a tool, but also the underpinning of an organization philosophy and commitment to CSR progress.

“We’ve made a commitment to only partner with those who share our commitment to environmental and social responsibility,” Ringel says.

That mentality has already begun playing out over the last several years. In 2021, over 70% of products the company introduced to the market were eco-friendly. In addition to PCNA, the company’s European branch is the leading promotional product supplier in Europe. Together, both companies have made commitments to a 50% carbon emission reduction and 100% supply chain transparency by 2025.

“Distributors should know that we care,” Ringel says. “They should know that we’re on a journey, that ProudPath is by no means the last thing they’re going to hear. It’s the beginning of a way to communicate in a manner that we hope they find efficient.”

The April 21 launch will include a webinar to introduce ProudPath to all of PCNA’s distributor partners.

“We're just starting,” Ringel says. “And we’re ready to ask everybody to come on that journey with us.”