Global Account Manager at UL Solutions, Nik Hallam, reveals three ways they work for a safer world
Nik, I’ve been meaning to invite you to do this for ages! Thanks for making time… First, your name is intriguing to people! Does Nik have an exotic backstory?
Back in the day, I played American football at a fairly high level for the Northampton Stormbringers… And at the time, it was quicker to sign Nick without the C, so Nik. After that, it stuck; months later Nik Kershaw appeared with the same spelling!
Boom! Great answer! So… Onwards: for whom do you work, Nik?
Since 2015, I work for UL, a global safety science leader. They provide the expertise, insights and services necessary to solve critical business challenges. We help our customers meet their safety, sustainability, and security goals, as well as evaluate their products for regulatory compliance.
What’s the company’s history?
Initially known as Underwriters Electrical Bureau, it was founded in 1894 by William Henry Merrill, Jr. Although the organisation experienced several name changes throughout its history, its goal – to promote safer living and working environments for people – remains constant and unchanged.
So what kind of thing did it start out doing?
I can tell you exactly the kind of thing… On March 24, 1894, the Bureau conducted its first test: it was on non-combustible insulation! Since then, UL Solutions has expanded its portfolio of services and solutions to a variety of industries for retailers, brands and their global supply chains.
So what do you do today, specifically?
Today we deliver testing, inspection and certification – or TIC; training and advisory services, risk-management solutions and essential business insights to our customers, based in more than 40 countries… We help them achieve their safety, security and sustainability goals. We believe our deep knowledge of products and intelligence across supply chains make us the partner of choice for customers with complex challenges.
And Nik, you’re an ever-cheerful presence at trade shows, including toy fairs… So what does UL Solutions do relating to toys and games?
UL Solutions has deep expertise in the field of children’s products, including toys, juvenile articles, children’s furniture and children’s apparel. We know it can be challenging to stay informed and compliant with the toy industry’s ever-evolving regulations and standards. That’s why we’ve made it our business to stay on top of the latest regulations and protocols.
And how do you go about that?
With deep toy safety expertise, our team of safety science experts support the toy industry’s drive to bring safer products to the world market. We can help with comprehensive toy safety programs, including age-grading determinations, human factors evaluations, safety and risk assessments, chemical management, CE-type examinations and toxicological assessments. We also offer a wide portfolio of sustainability solutions to start your path toward a more sustainable future.
Why’s it so important?
Play is certainly one of the most important children’s activities. Through it, kids improve their physical, cognitive, social and emotional well-being, and they can also learn specific skills that will be helpful for building relationships, study and work.
With that said, children are considered one of the most vulnerable consumers, and the current regulatory landscape is constantly changing to protect them.
Our work at UL Solutions helps companies that need to test their children’s articles — toys, juvenile products, apparel and footwear — to see if they comply with the requirements of their target countries before sending them into the global marketplace.
A massive job…
Absolutely. We evaluate a wide array of products that are targeted to younger consumers, and we devote our commitment and our passion toward allowing children to enjoy play in a safer way. Finally, this also helps companies to protect their brands, mitigate the chances of potential costly recalls and build consumer loyalty.
Given that the Mojo Nation audience comprises toy and game professionals of every kind, what three things should we mention that communicate the importance of UL’s work?
I’d like to particularly highlight these three concepts, all important to UL Solutions when it comes to our work in the field of children’s products: toy safety, sustainability and global market access.
Toy safety, sustainability and global market access…
Right. Safety is the core of UL’s mission of working for a safer world, and our experts are committed to helping companies evaluate their products for compliance to safety standards across various industries. Our experts join international working groups to develop and update the safety standards for toys and children’s articles, and can help companies stay informed on changes or new regulations.
Sustainability is now a top priority for the toy industry as well. However, it’s not enough to say your product’s sustainable or green: it must be proven. This allows you to avoid the dangerous circumstance of greenwashing…
Greenwashing? Okay… What is that?
Greenwashing is the name given to any action that misleads the consumer about a company’s environmental practices or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
So if I were to say something’s 100% recyclable, for example, knowing perfectly well that it wasn’t… That would be greenwashing?
Exactly right. And a greenwashing charge may spoil a company’s reputation, lower the consumers’ trust and result in fines. UL Solutions can validate a company’s marketing claims about the sustainability attributes of a toy, a nursery product or their packaging. We also provide software solutions for reporting a facility’s carbon footprint, responsible sourcing services and much more.
Wow. I had no idea your work was so extensive, Nik; it’s mind boggling. Thank you so much for making time to talk. Two questions to wrap up. First, what could I have asked you about today that didn’t come up?
Hmmm. While the pandemic limited in-person interactions with our customers, we continued to offer training/education sessions to toy companies. For example, we switched live technical seminars to digital webinars…
And did customers like that?
Yes; they’ve been very well received by our audience. It means customers can much more easily spend time with our experts talking about latest regulatory updates, company challenges and solutions, as well as new industry trends.
This year, we also launched a webinar series on topics including sustainability, the challenges of selling connected toys, key chemical regulatory updates and e-commerce in the toy industry. Those we’ve already presented are available on-demand on our website.
Great answer! Finally then, Nik… What’s the most interesting object on your desk?
I have a ‘business card’ on my home desk for ‘Stuck for Words’… And if anyone of your readers has one, they’ll know why it’s interesting!
Ha! Excellent! Great answer! That’s funny… Thanks, Nik; Really interesting stuff. I honestly don’t think we’ve had an interview quite like this before – it’s such a specialist, vital area of the industry. Thanks for making time.
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