Steps to Building a Sustainable Future
November 9, 2016
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. 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 2nd part of our series on product stewardship we aim to demonstrate how companies are going beyond regulations and why it is important to bring product stewardship practices into the 21st century. This first case study outlines how a chemical manufacturer took their first step towards product stewardship by looking comprehensively at their ingredient inventory.

Exponent recognizes that product stewardship is not just a one-step process. There are incremental steps that often begin with small initiatives and changes that can be expanded into a fully customized program. For one chemical manufacturer, the first step towards a product stewardship program was to ask: To what extent do our products contain chemicals that may have some restrictions, whether in the U.S, Europe, or Asia? To address this fundamental question, Exponent’s consultants synthesized and compiled chemical regulations and restrictions on the state, federal, and international levels into a database for use by the company.

Sources for the database included California’s Proposition 65 list, various restricted substances lists, and sources from the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Exponent provides a broad view of how regulations of a chemical vary in different countries and why those regulations may result in different restrictions for a product. By reviewing each regulation in detail, we were able to fully understand the toxicological basis of the regulations and whether or not they applied to the company’s products. The initial iteration of the database was kept broad so that both current and future product lines could be included. As future lines become more expansive, this also ensured that problematic chemistries were captured and identified early on.

These regulatory tracking lists are currently being updated by Exponent on a monthly basis to help guide the company in making decisions regarding their products.

What We Provide

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 

[This news alert is part of a cross-disciplinary series on how green chemistry concepts are put into practice across industries and business sectors.]