A Culture of Proactive Compliance
Ryerson’s Compliance Journey
In 2015, when Deputy General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Andrea Okun joined Ryerson, the company didn’t have a dedicated compliance role. Instead, compliance was decentralized across the company, scattered across siloed departments. This led to duplicated efforts and wasted resources, and exposed Ryerson to potential noncompliance risks when regulations changed.
Ryerson operates in four countries and sells its metal products to customers around the globe, putting it in scope of several product compliance regulations, such as the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation. According to Okun, leadership in the risk management and supply chain teams realized that “in this ever-changing compliance landscape we’re in, we really needed to have a central position or central group responsible for compliance within the company.”
After establishing a compliance team, the reality of just how big a task this was set in. “As we started tackling it, first you get a couple of questions, then you get 20 questions, and then you realize this could be a full-time job, more than a full-time job. Ten people could do this. And we realized we needed expert assistance.”
That’s when Ryerson contacted Assent for help.
How Assent Helps Ryerson Accelerate Growth
Ryerson needed easier access to product data from its suppliers and to rapidly respond to customer data requests. Ryerson worked with Assent to implement its supply chain sustainability management platform, and to set up managed services so Assent could handle all customer data requests for Ryerson’s small compliance team.
Ryerson’s internal team members wanted to focus their energy on ensuring products meet customer specifications, and on closing deals faster by having answers to their prospects’ compliance questions on hand. By maturing its compliance culture, Ryerson aimed to build long-lasting customer relationships as a trusted supplier that could provide on-time and compliant metal products. Assent helped them reach these goals by automating supplier outreach with standardized surveys, validating supplier responses against in-scope regulations, and rolling it all up into a detailed compliance dashboard. Assent’s team of experts also took over responding to customer requests for regulatory compliance data, taking the burden off Ryerson’s team.
Compliance Culture Starts at the Top
At Ryerson, the commitment to product and trade compliance has deep roots. Andrea says: “One of the things that’s been important for Ryerson is that we really have buy-in from the top down in implementing compliance initiatives and in our relationship with Assent. When employees see that everyone — our CEO, our general counsel, our regional presidents — is signing onto product compliance policies and assisting our central compliance team, it promotes a culture of compliance.”
Seeing the value and return on investment (ROI) of Assent’s platform was key in winning executive buy-in. But it’s not just about how much money Ryerson saves every year; the compliance team also recognized that proactive compliance helped their bottom line.
This was achieved through:
- Increased sales win rate by responding faster to prospects’ compliance questions
- Stronger brand value and marketing
- Improved customer confidence and relations
- Increased shareholder value
- Fine avoidance
Why Executives Chose Assent: Cost Savings & ROI
Ryerson estimates that to manually keep up with its product compliance and customer data request requirements, it would need:
- 10 full-time employees (FTE) for data collection
- 10 FTEs to respond to customer queries
Using the Assent Supply Chain Sustainability Platform for automated supplier outreach, the compliance team didn’t need to hire those additional staff, resulting in an annual savings of 20 FTE salaries and benefits. These savings are in addition to the ROI related to fine avoidance, competitive market advantage, and risk mitigation.
Managing Hidden PFAS Risks
As a metals manufacturer, the emergence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) reporting requirements and restrictions put Ryerson in an unexpected position. “PFAS is brand new. It’s something we haven’t had to respond to before… We sell metal, but a limited supply of them are coated. This puts us in scope of PFAS requirements,” said Andrea.
The PFAS reporting rule under Section 8(a)(7) of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) covers more than 1,462 PFAS chemicals and includes PFAS that have already been incorporated into articles through surface coatings or in electrical equipment. There are no de minimis exemptions for small-volume importers or small businesses.
Even though only a small number of Ryerson’s products are in scope of PFAS reporting requirements, the amount of data and supplier engagement involved was significant. “We had to quickly pivot, and it is difficult,” Andrea remarked. “Knowing that Assent is helping us and even just saying, okay, send this letter to the state, we can help you get this program off the ground, has been really helpful. We don’t have to figure it out ourselves.”
Scaling Up to Proactive Compliance
Ryerson’s leadership had a choice to make: Get bogged down in time-consuming tasks like supply chain data collection and responding to customer compliance queries, or focus on more impactful sustainability initiatives.
They knew they wanted a culture of proactive compliance, and recognized that they’d need help achieving it in a complex regulatory landscape. Through Assent’s advanced automation platform and managed services, Ryerson was able to reach their compliance and sustainability goals without losing years to planning and building a compliance program from scratch. They were even able to start rolling out environmental, social, and governance (ESG) programs to keep up with growing consumer demands.
Scaling up their compliance program was simple with Assent. “It was pretty easy, actually; it wasn’t a big process… Wherever we start seeing queries bubble up from customers, we look at Assent’s offerings and see it’s already there. We don’t have to be doing it ourselves — we can get it from Assent.”
To learn more about Ryerson's compliance story, visit: https://www.assent.com/resources/case-study/ryerson/
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