Taking Stewardship to a New Business Unit
Steve Benoit joined DuPont with a background in electrical engineering, but he soon fell in love with chemistry. His interest led to a 15-year career in product stewardship with DuPont, where he has worked across various business units and seen firsthand the company’s evolution to an agriculture and bio-industrial conglomerate. “We’re more of a chemical company than in the past, in some ways,” said Benoit. “There’s chemicals involved in all of these industries.”
Where there are chemicals, there are product stewards. At DuPont, the definition of product stewardship is “the business process used for the management of a product throughout the existing life cycle focusing on the health, safety and environmental issues at each phase.”
Product stewardship is owned by the individual business units and integrated into the company’s overall strategies. This presents particular challenges when the company acquires a business. At Stewardship 2015, Benoit presented “Adaptability of a Product Stewardship Program to Changing Business Portfolios” and gave tips to attendees.
First, whether the new business calls it a supply chain, product trail, or value chain, there is always a chain, says Benoit. And whether a company sells donuts or pencils, they all evaluate risk in terms of hazard and exposure. In other words, though the new business may use different terms or processes for its product stewardship, the fundamentals remain the same.
To start the integration process, DuPont uses a framework common to all its business to start product stewardship discussions with the acquired business. Specifically, Benoit starts with a spreadsheet listing RCMS technical documentation. In collaboration with the management team, he leads a gap analysis to match RCMS requirements with what the business does already. In many cases, the new business is practicing product stewardship; it’s just organized differently. In the food and feed business, for example, product stewardship exists in the Quality department, whereas it typically falls under EH&S in chemical companies. “Spend the time to look in that organization to find out where it lives,” said Benoit.
The point of a common management system is to help all the parts of your business or company to work in unity, but unless external certification is needed, it may not matter what management system the new business uses. Be flexible, said Benoit. If certification isn’t required under the management system, more or less time can be spent focusing on different parts of the process. “This is a two-way journey,” said Benoit. You might think you have the best process, but can learn from the acquisition. “It’s not your job to come in and say do this, do that. Maybe your procedures need to be changed in recognition of your new company.”
DuPont also collects information from the units to measure overall progress. This is realized in a single dashboard with key metrics that translate how well the company manages risk. The scorecard includes how often products are reviewed, frequency of employee training, number of incidents, and so on. “This dashboard goes straight to the CEOs desk,” said Benoit.