Waste Destruction –

An Integrative Framework Under the Brand Protection Lens

Regina Zamith
Director, Global Brand Protection LATAM, Johnson & Johnson

The production of goods that meet the interests of consumers is at the core of any manufacturer. Every year, countless products are produced to meet the most diverse consumer needs. For each product produced, there is an expectation of either an “exhaustion” or a final consumption. However, an expected outcome of the supply chain process is that not all goods are actually consumed. For example, a manufacturer may invest in the production of sunscreen lotions expecting a sunny summer, but if that does not happen, part of the volume produced will be left over and may not be in position to be sold in the next season. That’s when obsolescence is born, and with it the need to give the correct destination to such goods to reduce risks. In addition to that, breakdowns, damage, expiration, among other possible reasons, may lead to useless products intended for destruction.

While the proper destination of useless products has a clear and well-known connection with environmental aspects, a less visible side concerns the risk of reintroducing such products in the supply chain. On a recurring basis, practice has shown that what industry and commerce regard as garbage can actually be turned into a real treasure in the hands of counterfeiters. A nefarious and dangerous treasure.

On a certain scale, counterfeiters may collect empty packaging components that are thrown in the trash, and subsequently fill those with fake content. There may be the belief that not much that can be done in this case. However, solutions need to be considered, thinking on a large scale, non-mischaracterized production leftovers serve counterfeiters for “production” and distribution of second-tier product. Also, rejected products that are taken to destruction, when not properly secured, may be reintroduced in the market with the affixing of false labels.

At this time when humanity begins to have access to vaccines against COVID19, one question that pops up is whether the supply chain is prepared to properly handle and destroy billion of empty vials that package the serum, in order to prevent them from ending up in the hands of illicit traders and being reused/ reintroduced in the supply chain with fake content.


It is important to have in mind that the proper destruction of useless products, components, packaging and productive inputs must be a topic of constant attention for all those involved in the supply chain. And as such, the best approach has been shown to be the adoption of a “process perspective” with 4 basic elements:

  • Risk evaluation
    As with everything about risk, the first step is to recognize it, so that you can make the decision whether to confront it or not. And there begins the first major challenge: few entities in the supply chain are able to recognize the risk associated with the improper destruction of useless products, components, packaging and inputs. It is up to the brand protection professional to raise awareness, in a very clear and forceful way, demonstrating through factual elements and assessing the impact on the brand. This type of approach has helped to convince the interlocutors to adopt safer practices regarding the destruction of useless products and components.
  • Clear process ownership
    Another relevant aspect concerns to the destruction process ownership. Since it represents the end of a product’s life cycle, which no longer has value for the business, it is often seen as something less noble, worthless, even negligible. Again, interlocution with stakeholders and clear communication not only about the risk arising from the reintroduction of a inadequate product but also about the impact on the business. The sale of a product that should have been destroyed “steals” the sale of a product within adequate quality.
  • Robust destruction practices
    Once the risk is understood, in the desire to minimize it and with clear ownership, the time has come to establish clear and unambiguous destruction practices, to adequately cover the components involved, according to their degree of risk. Greater care and attention are required for finished products in their final packaging. Whenever possible, it is recommended that such products be removed from their packaging before being sent to the destruction facility. As for the destruction process itself, it must be appropriate to the nature of the product. The signed destruction verification documents, by themselves, are not adequate to ensure that the product or its packaging will not re-enter the supply chain. The stringency of the controls for destruction procedures must be determined based upon consumer risk of the product reentering the supply chain.
  • Process oversight
    Last, and perhaps most important, is the oversight of the destruction process. Recurrently it has been observed that the destruction process lacks the necessary attention to details. Often, it is left to its own devices, with no reconciliation of destruction records or audits of the process itself. Gaps in the execution of the process are only identified after problems have occurred. It is extremely important to establish clear roles and responsibilities, documented in specific procedures, so that there is a verification of the adequacy of the destruction process and corresponding records.


Given that context, it is possible to see that the lack of adequate controls on product destruction can lead to relevant risk to consumers, for which the business can be held responsible, as well as a damage to the reputation of the brand.

The stringency of the controls for destruction procedures must be determined based upon the risk of the product reentering the supply chain and with consumer safety as the utmost consideration.

When considering the destruction process with a view to protecting the brand, it is very important to have a closed circuit that identifies, measures, prevents and demonstrates the result when there are clear and adequate processes and controls. It must be made understood that such processes and controls are not a cost in themselves, but a prevention of losses in sales, in risks for brands and for the consumers who trust them.