Future-Proofing Product Stewardship

Jun 25, 2018 2:01:15 PM

Supply Chain, Materials Health, Product Compliance, Circularity

Reduce risk, fulfill customer requests and stay relevant

Product stewardship via transparency with Toxnot

Effective product stewardship requires being proactive to your channel customers’ and end-users’ needs, while engaging with your supply chain to reduce impacts to human health and the environment.  Below we highlight 7 steps to future-proofing product stewardship.  Understand why it's worth the effort and how to succeed. 

1. Understand the Opportunity.  Consumer groups will continue to lobby at the state and federal level to ban chemicals shown to be hazardous to human health and/or the environment.  Whether you're motivated by emerging business requirements, investor's expectations of transparency or the desire to design better products, there is an opportunity to be innovative, understand your substances, and future-proof your products.  


Definition of Product Stewardship, from a former webpage of the US EPA

2. Embrace the Circular Economy.  What is the mission of the ‘circular’ economy?  One in which raw materials are reused in a way to create cleaner products with less waste, and financial benefits for companies willing to transform.  It eliminates or greatly reduces the need for new raw materials.

At the end-of-life of your products, ideally, they can be recycled, repurposed or reused in some fashion to create something new, instead of clogging up our landfills (the end of a linear economy).  The image below visualizes the differences between a linear, reuse and circular economy.

From linear to circular economy Netherlands-1

From a Linear to a Circular Economy, Government of the Netherlands;  https://www.government.nl/topics/circular-economy/from-a-linear-to-a-circular-economy

3. Understand your raw materials. Chemicals transparency is an emerging trend being pushed by NGOs, state legislation and many large retailers (see list in #4, below). With multiple product lines and tiers of suppliers, we realize that details can get lost or miscommunicated.  We started Toxnot to help manufacturers understand what is in their products because, after dozens of conversations, we realized they didn’t know.  To reduce your regulatory risks, to win the approval of ever-more discerning customers and to be a proactive participant in the circular economy, it’s imperative to know more about which substances you’re using. 

Search Hazards Database

To succeed in a circular economy, we must understand more about the initial substances being used.  For example, by trying to recycle dark, often black-colored plastics used in electronics products, we have been unknowingly incorporating hazardous chemicals into black-colored recycled food containers and utensils.  While this issue also deals with the limitations of recycling facilities’ abilities to discern types of plastics, it speaks volumes about how much we don’t know about what’s in our products.

4. Collaborate. Work with your team- designers, procurement, manufacturers- and determine what substances comprise your products, and which priority chemical lists they are found on.  You may be surprised to learn that your products contain chemicals of concern.  Product transparency within your internal team is key to complying with regulations and managing risks.  The time for external communication about product transparency with your customers is now.

Retail chemical policy in US - Toxnot

Major retailer's recent announcements of their own chemical policies

Keep communicating to customers about your product transparency goals and successes and let Toxnot handle the data collection and maintenance process.  Begin by importing the bills of materials (BOMs) of the products you make.  Send customizable supplier surveys to your suppliers to fill in the blanks.  Our secure system allows suppliers to provide chemical hazards data on proprietary chemicals while maintaining their confidentiality.

5. Compare Scores.  Next, review your product or product lines against 40+ lists (including US EPA, US NIH, CA Prop 65, REACH), or create your own lists based on customers’ priorities. Within Toxnot, you can utilize the embedded GreenScreen List Translator™ scores so you know how your substances compare.  You’ll see a flag to indicate chemicals of concern; use our database to search for safer alternatives.  Then, our analytic tools will help you understand areas for improvement and benchmark against earlier product prototypes.

6. Re-screen as needed. Regulations and requirements will continue to change.  Once your full formulation data is collected in Toxnot, it's easy to re-screen your products as these changes occur.  We maintain up-to-date regulatory lists for you, eliminating the need to contact your suppliers each time a regulation updates.  Knowing the chemical contents of your products also reduces your costs in reporting under new and additional product transparency standards or working with third party auditors.  This more future-proof approach will save you time and increase your agility in responding to customer requests.

Which chemicals will be regulated or draw the ire of consumers next is uncertain. Knowing what's in your product formulations will help you be ready to act and innovate. 

7. Stay Proactive.  The roadmap and requirements for product stewardship are constantly being rewritten.  Which chemicals will be regulated or draw the ire of consumers next is uncertain.  Knowing what’s in your product formulations will help you to be ready to act.  Proactively seeking out alternatives to possible chemicals of concern can provide a first mover advantage.  

Retailers' restricted substance lists and chemical regulations will always change. By understanding what chemicals are used in your products, you'll stay one step ahead.  You can adjust the formulations of your products to stay relevant- and on the shelves in front of consumers. 

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Related Article:

Getting Started with Product Transparency

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