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Environmental responsibility: Is extended product responsibility inevitable?

Sprout.On Earth Day, Ontario’s Environment Minister delivered a speech in which he stated his government’s intention to shift the entire cost of the provincial household Blue Box recycling program onto the backs of the companies that produce the recyclables (they currently pay 50 percent).

The minister’s speech presages a new, stronger focus on extended producer responsibility (EPR) in the province’s Waste Diversion Act. EPR is a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility—both physical and financial—for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle. EPR (for example, packaging and product take-back programs) shifts responsibility upstream in the product life cycle to the producer and away from municipalities, and in doing so provides incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of their products.

Although the cynical among us might be tempted to characterize the minister’s comments as Earth Day greenwashing, the migration to EPR across Canada has been happening for some time. In October 2009, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) agreed in principle to Canada-wide strategies for extended producer responsibility and sustainable packaging.

Canadian manufacturers, importers and retailers might want to consider adding EPR to their risk management assessments in the coming year. But businesses shouldn’t think of EPR as just another burden to bear and pass on to consumers. Smart organizations will also see it as an opportunity, a way to make product stewardship and EPR a cornerstone of a powerful green marketing program, and an excellent way to gain a competitive edge.

You can find chapters on environmental management, product design and development, manufacturing and sales and marketing in Finance and Accounting PolicyPro from First Reference.

Colin Braithwaite
First Reference Internal Controls Managing Editor

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Colin Braithwaite

Freelance writer at Colin Braithwaite Editorial Services
Colin Braithwaite has more than 20 years experience in writing and publishing. From 2004–2010, Colin was the Managing Editor responsible for the products in the Internal Control Library at First Reference Inc.Read more
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