Product Stewardship’s Evolution
Product stewardship is defined as the act of minimizing the health, safety, environmental, and social impacts of a product and its packaging throughout all lifecycle stages, while also maximizing economic benefits.1 Elements of product stewardship can either be voluntary or required by law. Product stewardship has traditionally been associated with developing and maintaining compliance with the myriad regulations concerning a company’s products and product lines. In recent years, product stewardship has also been used to meet demands of consumers for “greener” products and increase their brand reputation. In this newsletter, we aim to demonstrate how companies are going beyond regulations and why it is important to bring product stewardship practices into the 21st century.
There are no clear guidelines on how to develop a comprehensive product stewardship program, let alone what metrics to use to measure the success of such a program. Given the complex regulatory environment and increasing demand for transparency and hazard mitigation from consumers and retailers, it is essential that companies develop a program to manage their products, packaging of those products, and raw materials used to make them. These non-regulatory pressures are leading many to rethink their strategies and find ways to get ahead of chemical restrictions and regulations. Product stewardship programs are appropriate for companies of all sizes, from independent small- to medium-sized businesses up to global industrial companies, and can help reduce liability, increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and improve brand reputation.
Exponent offers expertise in the science behind product stewardship, from understanding materials chemistry and toxicology during product development to assessing the environmental fate and degradation during product use and disposal. Exponent also has extensive experience in the business aspect of product stewardship, with deep knowledge of global product regulations and supply chain management. We work with companies both proactively and reactively to understand the business perspective on how they manage products.
Over the next five weeks, case studies will be presented that reflect Exponent’s work with clients at various stages of the product stewardship program development process. In each case, Exponent provided technical assistance with a business perspective to build a product stewardship program that was based on measurable and scientifically defensible methods.
Exponent’s capabilities within product stewardship include:
- Designing and evaluating a product stewardship program, with or without a complete chemical inventory
- Transitioning processes and corporate goals form regulatory to proactive product stewardship
- Developing responsible care initiatives
- Preparing and maintaining chemical and supplier databases