Bottom Line: Stewardship programs have made
their mark across Canada and will continue to expand, specialize
and become more complex. As brand owners, you should have a
thorough understanding of product supply chains and agreements with
suppliers to ensure that you comply with your obligations. While
most stewardship programs are still focusing on educating brand
owners and consumers about the various programs, watch out. A
subtle shift is taking place, with some agencies aggressively
pursuing non-compliant businesses and threatening enforcement
Stewardship Programs Increase in Quantity and
Stewardship programs have had significant success in achieving
their objectives – diverting an enormous amount of waste,
shifting the cost and responsibility of waste management to
producers and encouraging producers to design products in a more
eco-friendly manner. For example, British Columbia alone diverted
more than 40 million kilograms of electronic waste from landfills
as a result of its stewardship program, a 20% increase in
collection from the previous year. Brand owners are responsibly
collecting and remitting eco fees as well, which provides a
significant cost benefit to government and tax payers.
With the success of the initial stewardship programs, many
provinces are rolling out new initiatives or expanding the scope of
existing programs. Over a three-month period, from July to October
2012, stewardship programs were introduced for many new products
including lamps, ballasts, outdoor power equipment, exercise
equipment, sewing machines and leisure devices. Another trend is
specialized, complementary programs for general product categories
– like British Columbia's stewardship programs for
electronics, including unique programs for electronic toys,
batteries, office and computer electronics, small appliances, and
electrical mowers and garden equipment.
Be Prepared – Enforcement Is Next!
Originally, regulators and agencies were primarily concerned
with educating consumers and brand owners about the various
stewardship programs and accompanying obligations. Regulators are
starting to shift gears and conduct spot audits of registered brand
owners to ensure proper remittance and record keeping and pursue
obligated businesses that are not registering. Brand owners may
face ministry compliance proceedings if they aren't proactively
ascertaining their obligations and following through. It is always
recommended that businesses seek legal advice to confirm their
obligations, including whether they fall under the definition of
brand owner, if they are required to register and remit, and if the
remitter agreements they have entered into with suppliers comply
with the legislation, stewardship agency requirements and industry
Do you know the answers to these questions?
Are your distributors complying with their obligations and
registering? Who is ultimately responsible?
What is the supply chain of the product? Who is bringing the
product into the province? Is it being shipped from a distribution
centre in a different province?
Is your business legally defined as a resident in particular
provinces? (Some provinces look at residency as the determinative
factor, while some are instead concerned with introduction of
products to marketplace.)
Does the particular stewardship program or industry association
require remitter agreements?
Can the eco fee be passed onto consumers?
Can the eco fees be disclosed on customer receipts?
How should eco fees be displayed in marketing materials to
comply with consumer protection and environmental legislation?
What's the Takeaway?
The stewardship programs and accompanying eco fees are growing
and complex. Each province is unique and it is important to remain
organized and consult with experts to ensure that your business is
not subject to compliance proceedings or administrative fines.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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