My Path to Product Stewardship: Stephanie Couhig
Stephanie Couhig is director, global product stewardship, at Hexion Inc.
My undergraduate degree is in engineering. During undergrad, I participated in a co-op program, and in my last semester worked on a project with an attorney who was representing a community opposing a wastewater treatment plant. I was supporting the technical side, but realized I was drawn to what the attorney was doing, so I decided to go to law school.
I went to law school knowing I wanted to do environmental law. After graduation, I worked eight years for a large, international law firm, working on Superfund litigation and other traditional regulatory work.
Six years ago, I came to Hexion as part of the in-house legal department, supporting the Environmental Health and Safety group, including with the product stewardship group. I enjoyed working on the policy and advocacy aspects of product stewardship.
When we went through a corporate reorganization in 2015, I was asked to step in to lead the Hexion product stewardship group.
One reason I went into environmental law in the first place was that I wanted to combine my technical background with the soft skills of writing, advocacy and so on. I think being able to read and interpret a regulation is clearly a skill that you develop in law school. For example, to comply with certain chemical reporting obligations, we’re asking whether a specific chemical falls within the scope of the regulation or not. It’s not always clear from the regulation itself, so you try to find guidance and come to a sensible position.
I like that product stewardship allows you to use both sides of your brain. You have to be strong technically to understand the chemistry and the background of the regulations, but then you need to be able to communicate with customers and other stakeholders. In this fast-paced regulatory environment, I also like the ability to help think through strategically what the company’s product stewardship should look like.
What I tell people who I’m recruiting into product stewardship is that it’s a developing area. You’re not going to be doing the same thing today that you were doing yesterday. And there’s a lot of opportunity to work with pretty much every other function in the company.