What is Product Stewardship, Exactly?

What does product stewardship mean in the business world, exactly? Sometimes it seems to indicate product end-of-life measures, specifically regarding electronics or e-waste policy. Sometimes it is defined as a person to make sure a product is RoHS compliant or otherwise is clean of toxic chemicals such as lead, cadmium and mercury.  Other times it seems to mean a more Sustainability Manager type of role. The fact is that product stewardship can contain all these things and more.

We recently came upon this job description for a Product Stewardship position. We’re running it here to show specific job requirements.

Product stewardship job description. DuPont defines product stewardship as “a principle that directs all participants involved in the life cycle of a product to take shared responsibility for the impacts to human health and the natural environment that result from the production, use, and end-of-life management of the product.”

DuPont, for instance, and this is not atypical, approaches product stewardship through the American Chemistry Council’s Responsible Care program. DuPont sees product stewardship as an “inclusive effort that considers the interests of all important stakeholders, including customers, regulators, academics and advocacy groups.”

Product stewardship software. Product stewardship software is more or less a “steroid infused” chemical counter — or substance audit platform — with the added twist of:

  1. Automating chemical data collection from suppliers.
  2. Screening materials and B.O.M.s against regulatory lists vis a vis REACH, RoHS, WEEE, Prop 65.
  3. Functions such as MSDS distribution.
  4. Other document and agency reporting management.

Increasingly, product stewardship personnel is required to have expertise with related software, just as Finance Administrators are required to have familiarity with financial systems.

DuPont’s Product Stewardship Job Description
DuPont says its vision is to be world class in Product Stewardship and Regulatory efforts and to be recognized as a key contributor to DuPont business success through the development and management of safe, sustainable products.

The average product stewardship annual salary is said to be around $85,000 by Glassdoor.com, but if the regulatory compliance piece is taken seriously it is often higher, into the low six figures. The salaries are respectable relative to other “fields of green,” but there is still some insecurity around how long companies will nurture the stewardship side of manufacturing — so the tenure of these positions, like the tenure of so many positions these days, is indeed a question mark.

Product Stewardship Focus Areas and Responsibilities

  1. Provide a variety of consulting services to the businesses in areas such as the determination of product misuse, product safety, health hazards and potential environmental impacts. Other areas may include advising the businesses on appropriate labeling requirements; facilitating the auditing process at toller, manufacturer and other partner locations and the analysis of public perceptions and reactions to the businesses products.
  2. May oversee implementation of the Responsible Care Management System and Corporate Product Stewardship standards.
  3. May obtain, organize and assemble data and information from various internal personnel, databases, external sources, etc. to enable global regulatory submissions.
  4. Understanding regulatory requirements and the purpose of submissions to ensure compliance with national and state submission requirements.
  5. May Prepare forms, letters, labels and other documents necessary for regulatory submissions.
  6. May develop MSDSs that comply with local standards.
  7. Assisting in the preparation of responses to inquiries from regulatory agencies, customers, internal DuPont personnel, and others.
  8. Assisting in the management of products and/or regulatory projects, including the independent management of sub-projects.
  9. Monitors and analyzes regulatory trends and positions of industry and stakeholder groups.

Job Requirements

  1. Strong networking and leadership skills.
  2. Chemistry, Biology, Science, Public Health, Occupational Health, Toxicology, Environmental Science degrees preferred.
  3. Outstanding problem solving, analytical and interpersonal skills.
  4. Excellent writing/verbal communication and presentation skills.
  5. Accomplished computer skills including Microsoft office and applications and database experience.
  6. Strong work ethic and the ability to work in cross-functional teams to deliver concrete project deliverables in a timely manner.

DuPont says it is an equal opportunity employer, and as of now this job is posted here but these posting come and go so don’t be surprised if the link is broken. We’re not in DuPont’s HR department; we just want to illustrate what product stewardship looks like.

Kudos to Karl

Karl Dietz, who is retiring from DuPont after 30 years on Oct. 1, has long been a friend of this site and an enormous contributor to the industry as a researcher, regular conference speaker and author. (He also plays a mean piano.) We wish him luck!