Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals evaluates the progress made and challenges that remain since last year’s report card and the launch of the Mind the Store campaign, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Getting Ready for Baby campaign, and Environmental Defence Canada’s campaign for toxic-free products. This year’s third-annual report card addresses the ongoing need for transformational change in the retail marketplace to promote safer chemicals in products, packaging, and global supply chains.
In 2018, Who’s Minding the Store? evaluated the safer chemicals policies of forty1 of North America’s largest retailers: 99 Cents Only, Ace Hardware, Ahold Delhaize (Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant, and Hannaford), Albertsons, Aldi US, Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, buybuy BABY, Costco, CVS Health, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, The Home Depot, Ikea, Kohl’s, Kroger, Loblaw, Lowe’s, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Nordstrom, Office Depot, Panera Bread, Publix, Restaurant Brands International (Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons), Rite Aid, Sally Beauty, Sephora, Staples, Starbucks, Sobeys, Subway, Target, TJX Companies, Trader Joe’s, Ulta Beauty, Walgreens, Walmart Stores, Whole Foods Market, and Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell). These retailers were selected for evaluation because they were among the top forty U.S. retailers by sales or they commanded the largest market share in one of twelve major retail sectors (see the sectors in the chart below)
New retailers evaluated in 2018: This year’s report card includes 12 new retailers with 40 companies in total. The new companies include an apparel chain, a dollar store chain, an array of grocery stores, and, for the first time, six of the U.S.’s largest restaurant and fast food chains. This year we also included two chains based in Canada to expand the geographic scope of the report card.
Restaurant chains evaluated: Given the prevalence of chemicals of concern in food contact materials and the food supply, the report card now includes restaurant chains (including the subsectors: fast food, fast casual food, family dining, coffee shops, sandwich shops, etc.) for the first time. This follows letters we recently sent to over 75 of North America’s top grocery and restaurant chains. Our evaluation of restaurant chains only covers corporate chemicals policies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), bisphenol-A (BPA), and ortho-phthalates in food contact and food packaging materials as well as ortho-phthalates that are unintentionally introduced into the food itself throughout the supply chain. Our evaluation this year did not address restaurants’ policies related to other chemical sustainability issues (e.g. direct food additives, pesticides, GMO’s, etc.).
Retailers Evaluated in Who’s Minding the Store? by Key Consumer Sector
1 Babies “R” Us is not being evaluated this year given its store closures. While Amazon.com and Whole Foods are one company, they are being graded separately given the differences in their respective sustainability policies. Thus, we evaluated 41 stores.
|Key Consumer Sector||Retailers Evaluated in Who’s Minding the Store?|
|Apparel||Amazon, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, TJX, Walmart|
|Baby/Children||99 Cents Only, Amazon, buybuy BABY (Bed Bath & Beyond), Costco, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Target, Walmart|
|Beauty & Personal Care||99 Cents Only, Ahold Delhaize (Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant, and Hannaford), Albertsons, Aldi US, Amazon, Costco, CVS Health, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Kohl’s, Kroger, Loblaw, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Publix, Rite Aid, Sally Beauty, Sephora, Sobeys, Target, Trader Joe’s, Ulta, Walgreens, Walmart, Whole Foods Market|
|Department Store||Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom|
|Dollar Store||99 Cents Only, Dollar General, Dollar Tree|
|Drugstore||Amazon, Costco, CVS, Rite Aid, Target, Walgreens, Walmart|
|Electronics||Amazon, Apple, Best Buy, Costco, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Office Depot, Staples, Target, Walmart|
|Furniture/Home Goods||Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Costco, Ikea, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target, TJX, Walmart, Target|
|Groceries||99 Cents Only, Ahold Delhaize (Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Giant, and Hannaford), Albertsons, Aldi US, Amazon, Costco, CVS Health, Dollar General, Dollar Tree, Kroger, Loblaw, Publix, Rite Aid, Sobeys, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Whole Foods Market|
|Home Improvement||Ace Hardware, Amazon, The Home Depot, Lowe’s|
|Office Supplies||Amazon, Office Depot, Staples|
|Restaurant / Fast Food||McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Restaurant Brands International (Burger King, Popeyes, Tim Hortons), Starbucks, Subway, Yum! Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell)|
To evaluate retailers’ safer chemicals policies and practices we developed and applied a scoring rubric of 14 criteria (listed below), first developed in 2016. We aligned the criteria with other corporate safer chemicals policies and best practices identified in the BizNGO Principles for Safer Chemicals, BizNGO Guide to Safer Chemicals, and the Chemical Footprint Project. Small changes were made to improve the criteria in 2017 and again in 2018. Each of the criteria was assigned a maximum number of possible points, ranging from 0 to 17.5 points, weighted based on our best professional judgment as to its importance to the goal of eliminating the use of harmful chemicals in consumer products and packaging. We created a tiered grading structure for each criterion, awarding points for partial steps retailers have taken toward the maximum allowable score under each criterion. Across the 14 criteria, the maximum possible score is 135 points. In 2018, we used the same curved letter grading system, going from F to A+, that was used in 2016 and 2017 (see the grading table).
We reviewed publicly available information reported by the retailers, including corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports, websites, news releases and blog posts, in the summer and early fall of 2018. We also reviewed official correspondence between the Mind the Store campaign, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, Getting Ready for Baby campaign, Environmental Defence Canada, and the forty retailers selected for evaluation. After an initial evaluation of the retailers, we sent each one its preliminary score along with a standardized letter, providing every company an opportunity to review our findings, disclose additional information, and/or make new public commitments to correct or improve the draft score and grade. We followed up with each retailer multiple times to ensure that staff had received the preliminary grade and understood the report’s deadline and process. If requested by a retailer’s staff, we met with them to review and discuss our findings. After receiving written input, we adjusted and finalized each score based on any new information that was disclosed. We also slightly refined and updated the scoring rubric to reflect some of the retailer initiatives and new commitments that did not cleanly fit within our initial criteria.
Below is the list of the 14 criteria that describe the “best in class” actions needed to achieve the maximum number of points for each category. The full scoring rubric spreadsheet can be downloaded at the links on this page.
Key resources for Who’s Minding the Store?
Description of Actions Needed to Earn Maximum Points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
Retailer has a written safer chemicals policy that aims to avoid chemicals of high concern (CHCs)* beyond regulatory compliance in products or in packaging offered for sale. Within its scope, the policy also includes all 6 out of the 6 following elements:
- Sets public quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating CHCs in the products and/or packaging it sells;
- Applies to both products AND packaging;
- Applies to its entire operations, including facilities and in-house purchasing;
- Restrictions on chemicals applies to all locations where products are sold (whether or not the company has locations outside the U.S.);
- For at least one major product category, includes a Beyond Restricted Substance List for chemicals of high concern (i.e. CHCs not yet subject to government restriction); and
- For at least one major product category, includes a Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (i.e. CHCs used to manufacture products but not present in the final product).
*Our evaluation of restaurant chains only covers corporate chemicals policies on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), bisphenol-A (BPA), and ortho-phthalates in food contact and food packaging materials as well as ortho-phthalates that are unintentionally introduced into the food itself throughout the supply chain.
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
The retailer engages its employees, managers and/or directors in implementing its chemicals policy for product safety (beyond regulatory compliance) through all 3 of the following activities:
- Assigned a member of senior management with responsibility for chemicals policy;
- Ensures Board level engagement in chemicals policy; and
- Established financial incentives for senior management related to chemicals policies.
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The retailer engages in 4 out of 4 practices to assess and ensure supplier conformance with retailer chemicals policies or RSLs):
- Audits suppliers to verify chemical data submitted;
- Trains suppliers in chemicals policy and/or reporting requirements;
- Requires suppliers to testing in 3rd third party approved laboratories and provide results to assure conformance with chemicals policy; and
- Retailer routinely tests parts, materials, or ingredients provided by suppliers to assure conformance with chemicals policy.
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
Full chemical ingredient information collected for all private- label and brand- name formulated products and articles OR, for restaurant chains, collected for all packaging, and generic material content collected for all articles. (see definition of full chemical ingredient information, glossary).
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
The retailer publicly reports on metrics in reducing and eliminating CHCs in past three years (since November 2015) across multiple product or packaging categories. Metrics include quantifying reductions of CHC by weight, number or percent of products or packaging containing CHCs or in which CHCs have been reduced, and/or number or percent of suppliers selling or reducing products or packaging containing CHC.
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
Commissioned or required suppliers to conduct a credible hazard assessment, using detailed guidance, for alternatives to chemicals of high concern in products, packaging or operations; and has integrated retailer’s criteria for a safer alternative consistent with MTS definition into private-label product development process.
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Retailer safer chemicals policy and Beyond Restricted Substance List (BRSL) are both publicly available.Transparency around consumer ingredient disclosure (7.5 points):
Retailer requires all suppliers of formulated products and articles to publicly disclose all ingredients online and on product packaging (if either is applicable), including fragrance ingredients, generic ingredients, contaminants, impurities, byproducts, allergens and nanomaterials.
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
Retailer completes the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) survey; makes score and responses publicly available; and retailer is a signatory to CFP.
Third-Party Standards: Promotes credible third-party standards for safer products
Requires credible third-party safer chemicals certification (see glossary for examples) in every relevant category of retailer private- label products and/or packaging going beyond regulatory compliance.
Joint Announcement: Public commitment demonstrated through joint announcement
Participated in a joint public announcement with Mind the Store, Campaign for Healthier Solutions, the Getting Ready for Baby campaign, or Environmental Defence Canada.
Continuous Improvement: Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy
Has demonstrated significant improvement on a consistent basis over the long-term in restricting chemicals of high concern.
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
Developed a program to feature and market safer products on store shelves and/or website.
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
Actively participates in a collaborative process to promote safer chemicals OR retains an independent expert institution (not a consulting firm) to assist in meeting the same goal (see glossary for examples) OR created an external Advisory Board to collaborate with stakeholders to seek input into implementation of safer chemicals policy.
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions
Company or company foundation invests significant financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives to chemicals of high concern and/or green chemistry solutions.
*** Of course, we can only grade retailers on the policies and practices that they publicly announce or that they disclosed to the authors in response to correspondence. We make no representations about policies or practices that retailers chose to keep confidential.