At this year’s Assent Evolve, our “Product Compliance Program Best Practices” session broke down essential strategies you can use to navigate the evolving regulatory landscape and overcome your unique program challenges. In case you missed it, here are the key takeaways from the session.
Tip #1: Understanding Enforcement Activities
In the EU, there’s a common misconception that regulations aren’t enforced due to a lack of publicity surrounding enforcement events. However, enforcement agencies in the EU tend to quietly adopt a collaborative approach to non-compliance. Their goal is often to resolve issues before resorting to formal action, so the infrequency of high-profile cases is actually indicative of their effective enforcement.
Unlike the EU, the U.S. regularly publicizes enforcement actions. A prominent example is California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65), under which the State Attorney General’s Office annually releases reports of settlements, demonstrating their commitment to regulatory compliance.
Understanding the differences in how regulatory bodies manage enforcement is key to managing your risks and avoiding penalties.
Tip #2: Monitoring Regulatory Changes
It’s critical that companies not overlook emerging regulatory requirements. Staying abreast of today’s regulatory landscape is not enough — you need to prepare for what’s coming tomorrow. It’s recommended you assign a dedicated individual to track updates to existing regulations, entirely new regulations that could disrupt business operations, and regulations related to expanding your product into new markets.
It’s also essential to understand how these changes impact your company specifically, and to communicate information about your requirements to stakeholders throughout your organization.
Tip #3: Influencing Requirements
Active collaboration within your sector is a powerful tool for influencing legislative outcomes. If you feel emerging legislation will create insurmountable challenges for your business, consider joining a relevant industry organization. Expressing concerns as a collective group of industry representatives amplifies your voice and increases the likelihood of having your needs met.
Tip #4: Product Qualification
It’s essential that companies consider product qualification for their intended markets as part of their design process. Once you get past the conceptual phase, identify the markets that you want to sell into today and in the future. You then need to identify the relevant regulations you are in scope of and their impact. This will require somebody that understands the requirements, your business, your product attributes, and how your customers will be using your product.
Join us at Evolve On-the-Ground to build on these best practices and advance your supply chain sustainability. Gain deep insights and engage in real-time collaboration — begin your transformation today!
Tip #5: Product Maintenance
Don’t overlook the fact that your product has to meet regulatory requirements that evolve throughout its lifecycle — often referred to as the “mid-life crisis” of your product. As regulations and standards evolve, your product must be periodically reviewed, tested, and updated to ensure continued compliance.
And the work doesn’t end there — when exploring a new market, the product must meet that market’s specific qualifications. Furthermore, supplier changes may require that you make updates to your product design.
All these factors can significantly impact the lifespan of your products, underscoring the importance of ongoing compliance management.
Tip #6: International Standards
Use international standards for your compliance program and documentation. Expanding into new markets requires that you adhere to different regional requirements, and globally recognized standards will help you navigate them more easily. While initial alignment with these standards may demand more resources, it is a valuable investment that will save you time and money in the long run.
Tip #7: Progress Is Incremental
Large-scale compliance projects don’t happen instantly, but that shouldn’t hold you back from starting. Create a plan, even if it’s gradual and may take several years. Make time to inform your suppliers, review your products, and redesign if needed. Be flexible. Doing so will make managing compliance programs less daunting.
Tip #8: Supplier Partnerships
Make suppliers your partner in product materials compliance. You need to establish trust with suppliers so you can collect materials declarations, but don’t rely on trust alone. It’s essential that you incorporate supplier compliance expectations into contractual obligations.
Tip #9: You’re In Control
Remember that no one knows your products and markets better than you do. You are in the driver’s seat when it comes to compliance — use that knowledge to your advantage. If you don’t undertake your supply chain due diligence, you’re the one in the hot seat when enforcement authorities come knocking.
Tip #10: Integration of Compliance Program
Product compliance isn’t a one-off task—it’s an ongoing, multifaceted process. It involves managing regulations, conducting audits, handling communications, and maintaining documentation.
Remember, there’s no end game in product compliance. With changing regulations and new product development, your compliance program must remain flexible. In a world of growing regulations, having a robust, adaptable compliance strategy is just part of doing business.
Your Journey to Deep Supply Chain Sustainability
With a solid understanding and implementation of these best practices, you can more easily navigate the complex product compliance landscape. At Assent, we’re committed to guiding you on this journey, offering industry-leading solutions for supply chain sustainability management. To learn more, contact us.