Developing a Product Stewardship Strategy at Johnson & Johnson

Al Iannuzzi
March 24, 2014
Whenever I get the chance to speak to university students about career opportunities within environment, health and safety (EHS), I explain that there has been a shift in focus over time. Having been in the EHS field for more than 30 years, I have seen that focus shift from controlling risks and reducing impacts on manufacturing facilities and operations, to increased attention on the risks and impacts of a company's products and supply chain. By using life cycle thinking we can see that the greatest impacts can come from such areas as raw materials purchased, transportation, or the product use phase and its end-of-life. Getting a large organization with multiple business units to align on common objectives can be daunting. Having a comprehensive product stewardship strategy is a good place to begin.

At Johnson & Johnson, we first had to agree upon a consistent definition for product stewardship. My team's main internal customers are R&D and marketing, and these stakeholders have many different ideas on what product stewardship means - a challenge that is complicated by our company's role as a diverse health care company with three sectors spanning consumer products, pharmaceuticals and medical devices and diagnostics. Some members of our team thought product stewardship only pertained to the health aspects of ingredients we use, while others thought we had to be careful not to address issues that cross over into sustainability. Still others said we had to be sure to cover the social aspects of bringing a product to market. We landed on this as a definition: Product Stewardship (PS) is the responsible management of the entire product life-cycle to ensure that more sustainable and environmentally compliant products and packaging are available to our customers.

We used this definition as a guidepost for the scope of our strategy. In my opinion, a robust PS strategy must span across various areas and should focus on compliance and risk management, as well as communication of product benefits and developing PS talent. At Johnson & Johnson, we have four key focus areas:

Compliance: Like many companies we are enhancing our PS compliance processes. We are seeing an uptick in enforcement activity for PS regulations like REACH and have a need to increase our focus on tracking new regulations and influencing emerging regulations.

Greener product development: In the competitive environment we are in, our focus goes beyond just compliance. A key strategic area of emphasis is generating more sustainable products using our Earthwards® approach to improve products and packaging.

Communications: I like to ask, "What good is a greener product if no one knows about it?" Communications also has to be a focus area, both with our customers on the greener attributes of our products and the associated economic benefits, and with our employees to drive more awareness of Earthwards® and ways in which they can contribute to bringing more sustainable products to market.

Talent management: Our final focus area is developing the PS talent in the company and establishing a culture of building sustainability into all our product development activities.

If we execute on this strategy, I'm confident we will bring significant value as a product stewardship function to our employees and the many customers we serve around the world.


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About the Author

Al Iannuzzi
Johnson & Johnson
Al Iannuzzi, Ph.D. is a Senior Director of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability for Johnson & Johnson, where he directs the global product stewardship and green marketing programs. He is the author of the books, "Greener Products: the Making & Marketing of Sustainable Brands" (CRC Press 2011) and "Industry Self-Regulation and Voluntary Environmental Compliance" (CRC Press, 2002), and has written numerous articles on product stewardship and environmental compliance.

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