Best Buy earned a C grade by scoring 54.25 out of 135 possible points this year, which is a decrease from its grade last year of a B and reflects a lack of significant forward momentum in 2018. Best Buy ranks 11th out of 40 retailers this year. In 2017, the company had made great strides compared with 2016 by releasing its new Chemicals Management (Corporate) Statement. This document describes Best Buy’s plans to phase out chemicals of concern and improve chemicals management. The policy applies to operations and manufacturing processes, and references a Restricted Substances List (RSL) and Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL). However, Best Buy has still not disclosed the content of either the RSL or MRSL and did not report any progress in 2018 on reducing chemicals of concern. Best Buy did report on an initial piloting of its chemicals policy with store-brand TV suppliers in its 2018 CSR report, and the company stated it looks forward “to expanding the program to other product categories.”
Additionally, the company sells and promotes EPEAT-certified products that are free of certain hazardous chemicals. Best Buy remains active in the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council’s Retailer Leadership Council and is participating in the Responsible Business Alliance (formerly the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition).
Opportunities for improvement: Best Buy can make progress by disclosing the content of its RSL and MRSL, both of which it pledged in 2016 to release in 2017 but so far has not. The company should prioritize the reduction and elimination of halogenated flame retardants in key electronics, such as televisions, and substitute them with safer alternatives in the year ahead. Best Buy can also expand the policy to cover packaging and include quantifiable goals for reduction or elimination of chemicals of concern, strengthen oversight of the policy by senior management, and become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Summary of Best Buy’s Grade
13.75 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
The policy outlines Best Buy’s commitment in key areas of its business: its operations; its own branded products; its vendor partners; and recyclers. It states: “Within our corporate, retail, service and distribution operations, Best Buy actively looks for opportunities to reduce the use of chemicals. Whenever possible, we work to transition to safer alternatives.” Best Buy also sets requirements on the use of chemicals in the manufacturing process and holds its recyclers “to the highest industry standards to ensure…that chemical risks are managed properly.”
Best Buy says that it has a detailed RSL that “specifies chemicals restricted based upon regulations or known hazards,” i.e. the list reflects restrictions beyond those already in regulations. It functions as a BRSL, applying to chemicals in Best Buy’s private-label and direct import products, and as a Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL), since it also covers chemicals used in factories (in the manufacturing process). Best Buy has not disclosed its list of restricted substances. Best Buy staff told us the RSL and MRSL also apply to packaging but did not provide more details so we are awarding half credit.
Staff confirmed that the policy applies to all store locations.
The policy does not indicate quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern.
7.5 out of 7.5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
Best Buy’s 2018 CSR report stated: “Our corporate responsibility governance structure starts at the highest levels of our company. The independent Nominating, Corporate Governance & Public Policy Committee of our Board of Directors oversees Corporate Responsibility & Sustainability (CR&S). The Committee annually reviews our CR&S program and discusses with management any relevant strategies and risks.”
7.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The Chemical Management Statement further asserts that Best Buy “provides trainings to help factories improve their chemical management processes, including understanding of risks and the importance of taking proper precautions.” Best Buy’s chemicals suppliers are required to report their usage of chemicals on the BRSL and MRSL in private-label and direct import products and “[e]ach of our product specification documents include chemical requirements, and increasingly rigorous assurances and testing of products are required based on the level of risk.”
In describing the pilot of its Chemicals Management Program, Best Buy states in its 2018 CSR report that it “administered a survey and training to 22 private-label suppliers in various product categories.”
Best Buy has not specifically disclosed an initiative to conduct its own testing to ensure supplier conformance with its safer chemicals policy.
2.5 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
Its 2018 CSR report stated that the company piloted its Chemicals Management Program with 22 private-label suppliers in FY2018 (corresponding to the period of January 29, 2017 to February 2, 2018).
3 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
According to the 2018 CSR report: after piloting the chemicals policy with a survey and training for 22 private-label suppliers, Best Buy launched the program for its 9 TV suppliers. The company found all were in compliance with the limits of the chemicals on RSL, so no reduction was needed.
More than three years ago, in March 2015, Best Buy announced it had eliminated 100% of BPA and BPS in thermal receipt paper and moved to phenol-free paper (but did not disclose the specific alternative it had implemented).
2 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
Last year, the company also said that “Best Buy is asking suppliers to establish a chemical management system (if they don’t have one already), adhere to the Best Buy chemical requirements and report usage of some chemicals so that [the company] may work with suppliers to switch to safer alternatives.”
Its 2018 CSR report states that: “We also ensure 100 percent of our suppliers are audited to the International Electrotechnical Commission Quality Assessment (IECQ) 080000, which is the standard for assessing hazardous substances in electronics” but the company does not say if this provides a definition for “safer alternative” or explain how it provides guidance to suppliers on evaluating alternatives.
5 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
The company stated last year: “Being in electronics, Best Buy is focuses [sic] on OSHA Safety Data Sheet requirements, CA ROHS reporting, Prop 65 and other compliance purposes.”
Best Buy does not appear to encourage or require the disclosure of ingredients in products online or on product packaging or publicly disclose the identity of articles or formulated products that are free of chemicals of high concern going beyond regulatory compliance.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
3 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
0 out of 15 points
Continuous Improvement: Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy
5 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
0 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions