Retailers remain on the frontlines of consumer discontent with product safety and hazardous chemicals in everyday household products. During the past year, some of America’s largest retailers have taken significant steps to drive harmful chemicals out of products, packaging, and global supply chains, driving the development of safer solutions.
However, far too many U.S. retailers have failed to demonstrate meaningful progress on chemical safety.
The legal, financial, and regulatory risks associated with toxic chemicals only continue to grow. Retailer reputation and customer loyalty are also at jeopardy, especially when the EPA and other agencies are rolling back laws and regulations intended to safeguard public health from dangerous chemicals. Retailers cannot afford to wait for slow-paced government regulation to catch up with the backlog of thousands of chemicals that remain untested for safety or are already known to be hazardous to public health and the environment. Relying on self-policing by the chemical industry and product manufacturers will not satisfy the concerns of millions of consumers, who are demanding greater transparency and safer products.
It’s time for retailers to “mind the store” by requiring safer chemicals and safer products in order to promote healthy families and a healthful environment.
Based on our findings, we recommend that every major retailer in North America should:
- 1:Policy: Publish a written safer chemicals policy, with senior management and board level engagement and accountability for suppliers, which measures and publicly reports on continuous improvement toward reducing, eliminating and safely substituting replacing toxic chemicals in products and packaging;
- 2:Goals and Metrics: Develop clear public goals with timelines and quantifiable metrics to measure success in eliminating chemicals of concern and reducing retailers’ chemical footprint;
- 3:Transparency: Embrace “radical transparency” to meet rising consumer demand for: full public disclosure of chemical ingredients in products and packaging; public safer chemicals policies; and disclosure of both progress and challenges in eliminating harmful chemicals;
- 4:Avoid regrettable substitution: Develop mechanisms to evaluate the hazards of alternatives to ensure informed substitution; and
- 5:Foresight: Anticipate being graded in the future on progress made on chemical safety in products and packaging sold at retail, whether or not your company was included in the Who’s Minding the Store? 2018 Retailer Report Card.