The ever increasing complexity in regulations combined with the public’s demand for transparency, sustainability, and safe use of chemicals - this is what attendees at the Crop Innovations and Regulations conference in Barcelona highlighted as their biggest challenges. This is why companies started building and expanding Product Stewardship organizations. But are they a cost factor or a business driver? Does Product Stewardship accelerate or hinder business?
So much more than product compliance
The role of Product Stewardship has evolved from tactical product compliance to a strategic function informing a holistic view of the entire product life span from creation to disposal. The achievement of transparency greatly facilitates the implementation of all product stewardship-related processes within a life cycle. Product stewardship and regulatory factors are dictating time to market, hence why effectively navigating product stewardship, health and environmental safety, sustainability, etc. becomes a competitive advantage by clarifying and accelerating the path to product launch.
Product stewardship drives the market, so it should drive innovation. With insights into safety and regulatory, innovators can build better solutions for customers. A product steward’s input enables better formulas that ensure safe usage of chemicals and avoidance or replacement of substances of very high concern. They also give the business more clarity in terms of scalable formulas as well as expected issues and risks, so that the business can move faster and more confidently to timely launch. Even more, when product stewards are involved in early innovation, they will force you to get to a better solution with better ingredients that have a longer runway and better economics. They can spark fresh ideas and fresh solutions.
Are we there yet? Are product stewards involved early enough? And making the product better? Well … not yet.
In their everyday life, product stewards need to invest most of their time to search for the information they need to remain compliant in such a rapidly changing environment with current or soon to arrive on the market portfolios. The increasing amount of regulatory obligations has blown up the amount of work required to enter or stay in a market. SVHC communications, poison center notifications, updates in classification & labeling and the demand for a circular economy keep the industry constantly on their toes.
Regulations are not always harmonized and can seem to be contradictory - it’s often hard to get a clear answer or a clear influencing direction. Which SVHC to test when? What is the intended use? And how shall all this be managed, realistically?
Information is key
Access to information is always the key as it enables fact based decisions. Information about increasing, differing, conflicting, upcoming regulations and requirements. Information about substances and materials, suppliers, quality events, and customer needs. Today, most companies have to deal with inconsistent formats, broken processes, cumbersome and unconnected tools and systems to get this information. When you have a question on Sales or R&D, you can usually find a lot of information. When you search for product stewardship information, you usually ask someone. Product stewards waste their time finding information and informing others instead of being able to drive product innovation and strengthen early innovation ideas. Additionally, what happens when the one you ask leaves the company for whatever reason (termination, retirement, illness, etc.)? How safe is your product stewardship related know-how?
Get your basics right
Successful product stewardship should not depend on a single person. No company can take that risk. Furthermore, product stewards should be enabled to move from frustrating firefighting actions to being proactive business accelerators. What do they need? Intuitive tools, connected systems and a reliable source of truth, globally, that is accessible to anyone involved.
Start with getting your basics right: modernize your systems, minimize the use of spreadsheets and email wherever possible, unify information silos, and connect your people. There are systems out there to help you to unify data, documents, processes and reporting. Those applications need to come with easy-to-use interfaces that use consumer app technology to ensure 100% user adaptation. One single source of truth for product, regulatory, and quality documents, data and processes - globally - that is no future dream. Companies like BASF, DSM, Syngenta, and Nufarm already use modern cloud solutions to foster innovation, accelerate their product journey, produce high quality products and stay on top of regulatory changes. This is the first step to accelerate the product journey from R&D over quality and regulatory to going to market and beyond.
The Transformation of Product Stewardship
Product stewardship can drive top line growth when it is able to inform, influence and accelerate innovation using regulatory insights and facts.
New technologies, connected systems and processes, a single source of truth, and intuitive tools will help with the transformation. New gaps in consumer needs? New regulations coming through that can drive market changes? These are the market opportunities that product stewardship intelligence helps to identify, so that companies can act earlier. A real business booster.
Let us know about your most relevant challenges and we will demonstrate what a modern solution for quality management, regulatory affairs and product claims management can look like. Learn more.
About the Author - Shawn Steuer
Shawn Steuer is an expert in regulatory affairs, familiar with both the consultant and industry perspective. The biologist with a focus on biochemicals began his career in the area of toxicological safety and now brings nearly 15 years of regulatory experience. He has worked in many different areas such as biocidal products, EU-REACH, CLP, TSCA, plant protection products, pharmacovigilance and toxicological safety. He has also been in charge of the quality assurance for dossier quality for plant protection and biocidal products. His objective today is to bring together suppliers, manufacturers and consultants from the Chemical industry and support them in all regulatory and quality management challenges.