The Home Depot earned a B- grade, improving from a C+ in 2017, scoring 63 out of 135 possible points and tying for ninth place among 40 retailers. The company has continued to demonstrate progress on toxic chemicals over the past year, announcing new restrictions on nine toxic chemicals in household cleaning products by 2022 and notably becoming the third major U.S. retailer to announce a ban on methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers in all of its stores by the end of 2018. In 2017, the company announced its Chemical Strategy and stated: “The chemical strategy includes commitments to increase the assortment of products that have transparency of product ingredients and third-party certification of chemical ingredients. Additionally, the company is committed to working with suppliers to improve chemicals in categories with the greatest potential impact to indoor air quality, and will conduct annual reviews of product categories to track progress and drive innovation.” The new strategy includes commitments to restrict hazardous chemicals of concern, such as flame retardants, PFAS, phthalates, vinyl chloride, and triclosan, from key product categories, including paints, vinyl and laminate flooring, wall-to-wall carpet, and fiberglass insulation. For example, the company has pledged to eliminate nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and other alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs) in paint by 2019. The Home Depot has also set restrictions on polyvinyl chloride (PVC), phthalates, triclosan, coal fly ash, and other dangerous chemicals in wall-to-wall carpet, among other chemical restrictions.
Opportunities for improvement: The Home Depot should continue to implement its new policy by setting public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating additional chemicals of high concern; expand the policy by phasing out the use of ortho-phthalates, halogenated flame retardants, PFAS chemicals, methylene chloride, and NMP in other key product categories; and become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers. The Home Depot should also pilot the Health Product Declaration with suppliers.
Summary of The Home Depot’s Grade
10 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
In April 2018, the company expanded its Chemical Strategy by announcing restrictions on nine chemicals from household cleaning products sold online and in The Home Depot stores by the end of 2022. In June 2018, the company announced it was phasing out the sale of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018 in all of its stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
The Home Depot Chemical Strategy does not appear to apply to packaging or operations, and the company does not have a publicly available Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL).
2.5 out of 7.5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
It is not clear if the board is engaged in the chemical policy or if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemicals policies.
2.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The Home Depot has otherwise not reported on programs to audit suppliers, train suppliers, or conduct testing to ensure supplier conformance with The Home Depot’s Chemical Strategy.
0 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
However, The Home Depot does not appear to be requiring suppliers to disclose chemical ingredients directly to the company for evaluation beyond OSHA Safety Data Sheet requirements or other compliance purposes.
12 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
In 2017, the company announced it has been working with its suppliers to reduce and eliminate nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and other alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEOs), among other chemicals, in paints by 2019. Other restricted chemicals include phthalates, flame retardants, triclosan, formaldehyde, lead, vinyl chloride, PFOA, PFOS and fly ash. A number of these restrictions have been achieved over the past three years.
The Home Depot was the first major home improvement retailer globally to commit to phase out all ortho-phthalates in its vinyl flooring within one year’s time, setting a major precedent for other home improvement chains and flooring retailers who followed suit in 2015. This is very significant as flooring was one of the biggest uses of phthalates worldwide.
The company has also reported progress in reducing chemicals of concern in packaging. In last year’s sustainability report, the company reported it has removed more than 341,000 cubic feet of EPS foam from its packaging, which is equivalent to 351 greyhound buses. This was done in its private label holiday product assortment with recyclable materials such as molded pulp and paper. In its most recent sustainability report, the company pledged to remove 79,500 pounds of PVC packaging going forward. Over the years, the company has also reported that it removed and reduced VOC’s from interior paint sold at The Home Depot, reducing indoor pollutants by 27 million pounds per year.
2 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
8.5 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Transparency is a key element of The Home Depot’s new Chemical Strategy. The company states: “The Home Depot is committed to increasing our assortment of products that have transparency of product ingredients and third-party certification of chemical ingredients and that meet high environmental standards.” The company states that “all indoor wall-to-wall carpet sold through The Home Depot U.S. and Canada has a third-party verification of transparency through DECLARE Label or Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), or certification of material health through Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute or CRI Green Label Plus.” Ingredient information recorded through these programs can be challenging for consumers to find. Additionally, while this is notable, environmental product declarations do not always provide sufficient information about chemicals in products.
Partial credit is awarded as it is unclear how far this will promote the disclosure of ingredients in products online or on product packaging or lead to the disclosure of 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
2.5 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
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