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What It Takes to Advance Product Stewardship

​By Andrew Brown

Abbey Carson started with 3M as a college intern. After graduating with a chemistry degree, she started working for the global manufacturer through a contractor. Three years ago, she became a full-time employee. Now she works as advanced regulatory affairs analyst for the Abrasive Systems Division. “I thought I’d go into a lab. I fell into product stewardship, because I wanted to work for 3M,” she says. 

Still relatively new to the field, Carson has already found that her role in product stewardship is evolving, partly because of the company’s commitment to knowledge sharing among employees. 

At Stewardship 2015, Carson will talk in-depth about what individuals can do to advance the role of product stewardship in their organizations. During the session, Attracting the Next Generation of Product Stewards, she’ll present on the ways 3M gives product stewards opportunities to expand their horizons.

For instance, 3M sponsors an internal Product Stewardship Group that brings employees together on a monthly conference call for networking and professional development. “The hope is these teleconferences cover topics of interest that will also encourage our lab or business employees to participate, too,” says Carson.

Raising awareness of the product steward’s responsibilities is also achieved during employee orientation. Recently, 3M decided to make presentations from EHS representatives a part of the orientation program for new lab and tech employees. “Two years ago, it wouldn’t have been pushed so hard to engage with new employees, but the importance of product stewardship has become a stronger focus,” says Carson. “We try to tailor it to the audience—what they would want to know about a product steward or even as simple as who to talk to for information.”

Ultimately, Carson wants more companies to expose employees to the benefits of product stewardship. Building a strong community, with networking and learning opportunities is central to that mission. “This is also about looking to the future and keeping the product stewardship role relevant. There is a lot more hiring in the field,” she says. “Companies should know how to maximize whom they bring in and how to keep them.” 

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