Wal-Mart Stores (Walmart and Sam’s Club) earned a grade of A-, improving from a B+ in 2016, and scoring 87.5 out of 135 possible points, the 2nd highest score of any retailer evaluated. In 2017, the company made significant progress in both implementing and expanding their chemical policy, which includes a greater focus on the larger list of 2,700 chemicals, which grew by adding two new authoritative lists of fragrance chemicals of concern. Most recently, Walmart stated a new goal: by “2022, Walmart aims to reduce its consumables chemical footprint for Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. stores by 10 percent” which translates to a reduction of toxic chemicals of 55 million pounds. Since 2014, Walmart has reduced the use of “High Priority” chemicals by 96% by weight. The company states that: “All suppliers are expected to reduce, restrict and eliminate use of priority chemicals using informed substitution principles.” The policy applies to cleaning products, cosmetics and personal care products, infant products, and pet supplies, covering approximately 90,000 products and 700 suppliers. The company’s Implementation Guide provides comprehensive guidance to suppliers on how they should work with Walmart to implement the policy. In October 2016, Walmart unveiled its “Sustainable Packaging Playbook,” which also encourages suppliers to identify, restrict, and remove its priority chemicals from packaging, while avoiding polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl) plastic in packaging.
Opportunities for improvement: Walmart can continue to improve its safer chemicals program by setting a more ambitious Chemical Footprint reduction goal going beyond 10%, expanding the policy to include key chemically intensive product categories such as apparel, electronics, and furniture, piloting the Chemical Footprint Project with key private label suppliers, and reducing priority chemicals in use by Sam’s Club, which grew 13% by weight since 2014.
Summary of Walmart’s Grade
9 out of 15 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
However, Walmart has not developed a publicly available Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MSRL), and the policy does not appear to apply to its operations.
2.5 out of 10 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
It is not clear if the chemical policy is included in job descriptions, if the board is engaged in the chemical policy, or if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemical policies.
2.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
Walmart has otherwise not reported on programs to audit suppliers, require supplier testing in 3rd party laboratories, or conduct its own testing to ensure supplier conformance with its Sustainable Chemistry policy.
6 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
In September 2017 the company announced they are asking suppliers to ensure contaminants of concern are not present in the final product, for example in ingredients such as petrolatum. They stated they will be asking suppliers to, “verify purity of ingredients where contaminants of concern may exist, starting in 2019” and that they will annually measure, “weight volume of ingredients, known to often harbor contaminants of concern, that are verified to meet purity standards” starting in 2019. For suppliers that are not ensuring contaminants are not present, the company will encourage those suppliers to remove priority chemicals or ensure contaminants are not present.
15 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
The company reported that since 2014, Walmart suppliers have reduced the use of High Priority chemicals by 96% by weight, translating to a reduction of these chemicals by over 23.6 million pounds. The company noted that “a small number of suppliers used the largest volumes of all high priority chemicals (HPCs), with one supplier in particular using the majority of HPCs in only a few select products. We have encouraged these suppliers to reformulate their products to remove the high priority and priority chemicals. While we have removed 96% of HPCs by weight, there is still a long way to go before removing all HPCs, and we will continue to actively encourage suppliers to advance safer formulations.” It has also reduced the use of Priority chemicals by 49% by weight since 2014.
Sam’s Club suppliers achieved a reduction of High Priority chemicals by 68% since 2014 (by weight). However the weight of Priority Chemicals sold by Sam’s Club increased by 13% (by weight) since 2014, which the company attributed to a mix of increased sales of products containing CHC and new chemicals added to authoritative and regulatory lists.
Both Walmart and Sam’s Club reported a reduction in the percentage of suppliers and products containing CHC, however the rates of reduction are far less compared to the reductions by weight. More work is still needed particularly to address the Priority Chemicals. Walmart reported 483 million pounds and Sam’s Club reported 67 million pounds of Priority Chemicals present in their suppliers’ products.
Going forward, the company has set a clear goal to reduce the use of chemicals of concern by 10% or 55 million pounds by 2022.
6 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
Their Implementation Guide states: “Informed substitution is the considered transition from a chemical of particular concern to safer chemicals or non-chemical alternatives . Using informed substitution principles will mitigate hazard risks associated with product formulation and achieve compliance with Walmart’s Policy on Sustainable Chemistry in Consumables…In the aim of advancing safer formulated products and promoting informed substitution, Walmart recommends the major tenets of Alternatives Assessment, a process for identifying, comparing and selecting safer alternatives to priority chemicals (including those in materials, processes or technologies) on the basis of their hazards, performance, and economic viability…”
In its Implementation Guide, the company cites many great resources, such as the GreenScreen, CleanGredients, Pharos Chemical and Material Library, BizNGO’s Chemical Alternatives Assessment Protocol, US EPA Safer Chemical Ingredient List (SCIL), and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production’s Alternatives Assessment Protocol. It is unclear how staff are tracking or evaluating suppliers’ use of these tools and practices.
14 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Walmart states that, “Walmart will create more transparency about ingredients contained in the products on its shelves by requiring all suppliers to provide full online ingredient disclosure beginning January 2015 and Walmart Priority chemicals on pack beginning January 2018. Walmart expects online public disclosure to be publicly accessible from the supplier’s website and to be displayed at the per-product level.” Walmart recommends that disclosure should include, “full disclosure of all ingredients including those typically protected under trade secrets (e.g. fragrances)” as well as “known residuals, contaminants and by-products” but does not require full ingredient disclosure for all products. The company is tracking supplier public disclosure practices through “the Sustainability Index to capture data on supplier practices regarding product ingredients disclosure online” and publicly reported on the results of this tracking online in August 2017. In September 2017 the company announced they are for the first time asking suppliers to disclose ingredients to consumers globally, not just in the United States.
6 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
5.5 out of 7.5 points
Third-party Standards: Promotes credible third party standards for safer products
0 out of 5 points
Joint Announcement: Public commitment demonstrated through joint announcement
10 out of 15 points
Continuous Improvement: Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy
1 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
5 out of 5 points
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
5 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions