Penman Consulting News

How do you grow a Product Steward?

Posted by Alex Tibbitt | April 3, 2018

What does a Product Steward need to know?

A nearly impossible question to answer but very relevant.

Product Stewardship has transitioned from an exercise in regulatory compliance to a critical business driver, impacting all stages of the supply chain.  As regulations inside the Chemical industries increase in complexity and scale, and modern business requirements are shaped by consumer-led demands, an organisation’s Product Stewardship expertise has become an invaluable resource.

So how does one become an effective Product Steward and meet the growing needs of the Chemical and Petrochemical industry: How do you grow a Product Steward?

We spoke to our Product Stewardship and Regulatory Affairs Manager, Helen Penman, about her part-time study and growth as a Product Steward.

“After working in the business since 2008 and through two REACH deadlines I moved from managing large consortia into managing the Product Stewardship and Regulatory Affairs team. We are a small team delivering expertise in registration, Only Representative services, PPORDs, Product Stewardship and other regulatory issues. “

“My first degree is a BA (Hons) Media Practice (Photography) which I got way back in 1994. I worked in project management for several print companies and for the NHS before joining Penman Consulting with Mike and Sue in 2008. When I started we were a small company of 4 people (all Penmans!) and now we are 30+. It’s been great to have been here for all three REACH deadlines and to be a part of the company’s success.”

“I am studying for a BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Earth Science) with the Open University. I am in my fourth year of six and will graduate in 2020. I’m 44 now and will be 46 when I graduate. I’ll be the oldest recent graduate in the company! I generally study from 5am to 7am and late in the evenings, seven days a week. Lectures are at 8pm in the week and this year I am attending the field school for 5 days of hands-on fieldwork in Cumbria.”

“I work all day, every day, with a team of scientists and I found myself needing more understanding of biology, chemistry and the environment so that I could follow scientific arguments within a regulatory framework. When I started this degree, I was the only non-scientist on the team and I wanted the challenge that learning an entirely new discipline can bring. I had been with the company for six years and needed to know more.

The Open University was the obvious choice for me as the degree is taught entirely online and allows me to work around my family and my full-time job. I study for an average of 25 hours a week, in my own time, from October to end May and my exams are always in the first week of June. It’s a huge amount of work and I am constantly sleep deprived but it’s worth it!”

“Organic / inorganic chemistry, mineralogy and petrology are my favourite things to study. I’m a rock nerd.”

“I have extensive project management experience, together with 10 years Regulatory experience and the scientific knowledge I am gaining helps me to put all the pieces together from a regulatory and scientific viewpoint. Complex read-across strategies and tiered testing approaches require scientific knowledge to fully appreciate and understand. As we reach the end of REACH (well, the third deadline), we know that the evaluation phase is going to take another 10 years of hard work and sound strategy. I want to be a part of that.”

“I work in a scientific consultancy with recent graduates and senior experts. This science degree gives me a better appreciation of the issues faced by our clients and by the team in finding complex scientific solutions to the regulatory challenges presented by REACH and other regulatory bodies.”

“The team here have been really supportive of my studies. They put up with my endless questions and cheer-lead me through the stressful times. My family at home have pulled out all the stops to make time and space for me to study. They also tolerate my (ever-expanding) rock collection and scurrying up and down hills in the rain with me.”


The ability to draw on knowledge from a range of experiences and education, combined with continued learning and cross-team development, is vital for Product Stewards.  The approach you take will be shaped a host of factors, including the complexity of regulation, business objectives, and consumer needs.

The impact of Product Stewardship on an organisation, the environment, consumers, and the industry, make an effective Product Steward is an invaluable resource.

Keep an eye out for more Penman Consulting news and read about How to grow a Toxicologist here

Get in touch to find out more about Penman Consulting and what we can offer you.