Brand Integrity at UL is more than a Mark and it’s more than a service. It means adding value to the services we provide through vigilance and rigor in safety science, quality and ethics in order to protect each customer’s brand while safeguarding our own. It means a passion and commitment driven by our mission of ‘Working for a Safer World’. It means we never stop working to protect brands, products, places — people.
Brand Integrity spans a range of services and activities designed to boost market confidence in brands and products to perform safely, effectively and responsibly. This includes proactively surveying the marketplace, investigating product incident reports, supporting law enforcement in efforts to remove counterfeit goods from the stream of commerce, and developing holistic brand integrity strategies and solutions that help companies protect and manage their most valuable asset: their good name.
Brand trust and asset protection
Market demand for safe, secure, truthful and sustainable products and experiences has never been greater. We also see a trend of eroding trust in brands. Product recalls, data breaches, counterfeiting, misleading marketing messages and negative or phony online reviews have taken their toll on market confidence.
Every brand is vulnerable in today’s connected world. Companies need to proactively manage risk to avoid jeopardizing the good name they have worked so hard to build. Our customers benefit from our diverse, cross-functional team and expertise (spanning ethics to legal, marketing to safety engineering, investigation to enforcement) to help them protect their valuable reputations and strategic assets and manage brand risk.
Holistic and sustainable brand strategies are critical as brand threats have changed dramatically in the last decade: how they manifest themselves, where and when they can strike within the enterprise or in markets, and what businesses can do to mitigate them. When well-managed, brands create opportunities to shape market perceptions, drive value (attracting customers, employees and investors) and mitigate risks. This requires a cross-functional strategy and coordinated actions encompassing people and expert roles across the organization, because no single person or function owns brand, reputation and asset risk.
The trust that our customers and end users place in the UL brand is our most precious asset so it is vital that we protect our own brand from varied threats. Data breaches, flawed internal practices and association with bad actors are just a few scenarios that can threaten this trust. Anticipating and proactively planning responses to brand threats is critical in order to protect our reputation and intellectual property and preserve, and even strengthen, the value of the UL brand, and by association, our customers’ brand assets, reputations and trust.
Our commitment to brand trust was validated by Aon Risk Solutions’ Global Risk Management Survey (2019) with 2,672 risk decision-makers from 33 industry sectors which found that “damage to reputation/brand” has emerged as the #1 ranked risk (out of 10 risk factors) for companies and organizations in Asia, and the #2 ranked risk in North America.
We help protect brands and consumers in many ways — from the food on your plate to the money in your account. For example, when you withdraw cash from an ATM, how do you know your private, financial data is safe? We work directly with credit card issuers to develop processing requirements that keep pace with evolving technology to help avoid data breaches. One example is chip and pin technology that consumers now see embedded in their credit cards. We use custom tool sets to confirm that a credit card terminal meets the platform requirements and then help make those tools available in the marketplace. When you are shopping at the grocery store, how can you tell a natural from a processed food product? You may see our Mark on a brand of honey to show that it is in fact honey and not corn syrup in disguise. These examples underscore how our solutions are touching more and more industries and people.
Through our ongoing marketplace investigations work we help enhance public safety, protect the integrity of our customers’ brand and the UL brand that attests to it, and increase the value of our services. We deliver a multitude of services that help create a level playing field in the marketplace for our customers by actively monitoring the use of the UL Mark. For example, we provide a documented process to investigate and determine the root cause of customer product noncompliance and product safety or quality issues that their customers or the public raise. We also implement mitigation actions to address safety hazards, correct false and misleading advertising and provide alerts to the public on safety threats. In addition, we proactively survey the market on issues involving products bearing UL Marks and analyze data and trends to identify potential safety, quality, security, sustainability or ethical concerns with new products and emerging technologies on the horizon.
Our team is strategically positioned around the globe to investigate allegations of noncompliance with the goal of ensuring that only products that have earned the UL Mark benefit from its integrity and widespread acceptance.
Investigations typically begin with a product incident report that anyone call fill out online. This is a formal notification that something doesn’t seem right with a UL certified product or advertising claim. More than 75 percent of the reports we take action on originate directly from consumers, customers, manufacturers and government regulators all over the world. Other reports are generated in-house, typically from research and information we’ve gathered from our continuous monitoring of public safety, quality and health agencies and policies around the world.
We work as an advocate collaborating with manufacturers, retailers, law enforcement and regulatory authorities to advance public safety. It is a mission we treasure. We know that we can only empower trust if our status as an accredited and premier organization for the testing, certification and conformity of products and services around the world is intact. Identifying counterfeit UL Marked products and taking action to remove these unauthorized, dangerous, deceptive or low quality goods from the marketplace is just one way we work for a safer world.
When we analyze data and report systemic issues to support Standards updates and drive improvements to the testing, inspection and certification process (as well as advisory, training, intelligence and digital tools and services), we know we are making a difference and protecting the integrity of the UL brand and the valuable brand assets of our stakeholders.
We are united around the world in a network working to safeguard people, brands, products and places from the risks and harm of counterfeit products. Our team works closely with global partners and law enforcement authorities to develop and implement solutions that halt the flow of illegal and potentially dangerous goods.
Counterfeit goods can pose a threat to human life and public safety; they also undermine quality and market relationships, not to mention compromise the integrity of the UL Mark. An example of our efforts: our team launched a collaborative project to reduce counterfeit products in the marketplace known as Project Centurion. This operation leveraged our global safety network by engaging with law enforcement, UL customers, intellectual property protection associations and governmental entities to conduct intelligence-led investigations.
Our efforts this past year resulted in the seizure of 3.8 million products bearing a counterfeit UL Mark.
We also routinely hold workshops and conferences to educate organizations on intellectual property crime, including an annual IP Crime Conference, in partnership with INTERPOL that attracts delegates from more than 80 countries. During these events, we proactively facilitate meetings between law enforcement and other public and private stakeholders that are also working to combat and reduce intellectual property crime.
Our global anti-counterfeiting network is central to our pioneering fight for intellectual property rights.
Advancing our mission: Protecting brands and people
Ultimately, Brand Integrity means transparency, truthfulness, commitment, consistency—brand trust. Our commitment and coordinated services help companies innovate safely, effectively and ethically while safeguarding their consumers, brands, good names and reputations. Brand Integrity has always been a key pillar supporting our mission; it has never been more vital at UL and in the marketplace.