Best Buy earned a letter grade of C-, which is lower than its grade last year of C and reflects a lack of significant forward momentum in 2019. The company scored 46 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 20th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
In 2017, the company made great strides, compared with 2016, by releasing its new Chemicals Management Statement. This document described Best Buy’s plans to phase out chemicals of concern and improve chemicals management. The policy applies to operations and manufacturing processes, and the document referenced what was functionally a beyond restricted substance list (BRSL) and a manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL). However, Best Buy has still not disclosed the content of either the BRSL or MRSL and did not report any progress in 2018 or 2019 on reducing chemicals of concern.
In its 2018 CSR report, Best Buy reported on an initial piloting of its chemicals policy with store-brand TV suppliers. The results from this pilot suggested that perhaps the BRSL or MRSL is not as stringent as it should have been, since research commissioned by Toxic-Free Future and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign found that three private-label TVs from Best Buy contained toxic flame retardants. Best Buy staff later noted to us that the TVs that tested positive were discontinued, although the company has not confirmed whether the replacement TVs have been tested to be free of toxic flame retardants. The company expanded the program to all other private-label product categories in FY2019, consistent with the original scope of the 2017 policy.
The company sells and promotes EPEAT-certified products that are free of certain hazardous chemicals but this year did not report on statistics of tons of hazardous waste avoided. 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 contents of its BRSL and MRSL since it pledged in 2016 to release both of these in 2017 but has not done so, even two years later. The company should prioritize the reduction and elimination of halogenated flame retardants in key electronics, such as televisions, and replace them with safer alternatives in the year ahead. Best Buy should also expand the policy to clearly cover packaging, strengthen accountability measures, and set public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern (CHCs) that may be present in products it sells, including per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and phthalates in addition to toxic flame retardants. The company should also become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Summary of Best Buy’s Grade
12.5 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.” However, the statements on operations do not indicate how the company is addressing chemicals of concern in its operations (such as flame retardants, PFAS, and ortho-phthalates in building materials used for new stores and renovations), so partial credit is awarded for this component.
Best Buy says that it has a detailed restricted substance list 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 an MRSL since it also covers chemicals used in factories (in the manufacturing process). Best Buy has not disclosed either its BRSL or MRSL. Best Buy staff told us the BRSL and MRSL also apply to packaging but did not provide more details, so we are awarding half credit. Research commissioned by Toxic-Free Future and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign found that three private-label TVs from Best Buy contained toxic flame retardants. Best Buy staff later noted to us that the TVs that tested positive were discontinued, although the company has not confirmed whether the replacement TVs have been tested to be free of toxic flame retardants. These findings suggest that Best Buy’s BRSL and/or MRSL does not go far enough.
Staff members confirmed that the policy applies to all store locations.
Best Buy has not set public quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating CHCs.
5 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
7.5 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
In describing the pilot of its Chemicals Management Program, Best Buy stated in its 2018 CSR report that it “administered a survey and training to 22 private-label suppliers in various product categories” and added in its 2019 report that the program was expanded “to all other private label product categories.”
In 2019, Best Buy staff stated: “Best Buy trains our suppliers annually regarding our chemicals management statement (policy) and expectations. New suppliers are trained as they are brought on board and then participate in the annual training cycle. We also provide remedial training for suppliers based on any findings that arise from our supplier auditing program.”
Staff also confirmed that “all supplier product specifications” include the company’s RSL, which details “safer chemicals requirements” and “supplier chemical reporting requirements.”
Best Buy has not specifically disclosed that it conducts its own testing to ensure suppliers comply with its safer chemicals policy.
2.5 out of 13 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). The 2019 CSR report added: “In FY19 [February 4, 2018 to February 2, 2019], we expanded this program to all other private label product categories [beyond TVs] and continue to provide support to our suppliers on their chemicals management.”
0 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
The company’s 2018 CSR report discussed launching its chemicals management program for its 9 TV suppliers but concluded that all were in compliance with the limits of the chemicals on the BRSL and/or MRSL, implying that no reduction was needed. However, new research found that three private-label TVs from Best Buy contained toxic flame retardants, suggesting that Best Buy’s BRSL and/or MRSL does not go far enough. Best Buy staff later noted to us that the TVs that tested positive were discontinued, although the company has not confirmed whether the replacement TVs have been tested to be free of toxic flame retardants. The 2019 CSR report noted that the program was expanded to all other private-label product categories, but the company has not yet reported on any reductions achieved as a direct result of the program.
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). Additionally, in November 2016, Best Buy received an award from Office Depot for an increase in the rate at which it was purchasing green products “like greener janitorial chemicals and lower flame retardants in furniture.”
4.5 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
In 2017, 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.”
In September 2019, Best Buy staff told us that for some categories of chemicals, the company gives suppliers a list of examples of safer alternatives that it encourages them to use. The company also notifies suppliers of chemicals that it is planning to restrict through its RSL. Overall, the company relies on suppliers’ expertise to decide what is best for their operations. These pieces of information do not amount to detailed guidance.
5 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
The company stated in 2017: “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 suppliers to publicly disclose ingredients in products online or on product packaging and does not itself publicly disclose the identity of articles or formulated products that are free of CHCs going beyond regulatory compliance.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
1.5 out of 8.5 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
2.5 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