Charles Geraci Reflects on Product Stewardship’s Past in Keynote Address

Product Stewardship 2018 kicked off with Dr. Charles Geraci’s look back on the roots of product stewardship in his opening session address The Journey from Safety to Sustainability to Stewardship. Dr. Geraci reflected on his 25 years of experience in the industry and how it intersected with the evolution into its current focus on sustainability and compliance.

He set the scene for this year’s conference by defining product stewardship as “designing, making, selling, using, and retiring products in a way that is safe, healthy, and responsible.” The goal is to give consumers the confidence that the products they use are safe and won’t burden society or the environment.

The development of product stewardship began in industrial hygiene, passing through new concerns about the environment and safety, and eventually encompassing economic interests and societal impacts. Once sustainability joined these disciplines, product stewardship was born. He illustrated these changes with examples from his career that showed product stewardship in action. Dr. Geraci also looked forward to how product stewards will impact manufacturing in the future.

Though he was initially a skeptic of the need for a formal industry organization, Dr. Geraci praised the work of the Product Stewardship Society. He highlighted how the Society helps guide new people into the profession and promotes adoption of industry standards. The growth of the profession now allows organizations to consider questions around product stewardship they wouldn’t have even thought of five or six years earlier.

A lively question and answer session allowed attendees to hear Dr. Geraci’s perspective on a number of local and global issues they face in their day-to-day work. Discussion included how to balance short-term business needs with long-term product stewardship goals, emerging concerns about designing for a product’s end-of-life, how to respond to an ever-changing regulatory landscape, and making sure that product stewardship doesn’t become a passing fad.

Dr. Geraci serves as the Associate Director for Emerging Technologies at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH). He is a NIOSH Distinguished Career Scientist and earned the NIOSH Director’s Award for Extraordinary Science.

This was only the beginning of an engrossing Product Stewardship 2018. Continue watching the Full Circle Blog for more session recaps!


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