The Home Depot earned a letter grade of B+, which reflects an improvement from its B- grade in 2018. The company scored 80.5 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 8th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
The company has continued to demonstrate progress on toxic chemicals over the past year by banning PFAS as a class in carpets and rugs, following through on its commitment to ban methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers, as well as relaunching its Eco Options website. In 2019, the company reported new metrics for implementing its Chemical Strategy and that the company is on track to meet the goals it has set for reducing hazardous chemicals in cleaning products, paints, carpet, and insulation. It reported the reduction is 65% complete for paint, 95% complete for carpet, 90% complete for insulation, and 99% complete for cleaning products.
Previously, 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 strategy includes commitments to restrict chemicals of high concern (CHCs), such as flame retardants, 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 CHCs; expand the policy by phasing out the use of all PFAS, ortho-phthalates, halogenated flame retardants, methylene chloride, and NMP that may be present in other key product categories; and become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers. The company should follow through on its ban of toxic paint strippers by also restricting regrettable substitutes, particularly those containing GreenScreen Benchmark 1 chemicals. The Home Depot should also pilot the Health Product Declaration with suppliers.
Summary of The Home Depot’s Grade
8.75 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
In 2019, the company announced it was banning PFAS in all carpets and rugs sold in the U.S., Canada, and online. It plans to expand this commitment to Mexico.
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.
However, some of its Chemical Strategy appears to only apply to the U.S. and Canada, so only partial credit is awarded for this component.
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.
The policy does not appear to apply to operations or packaging, and the company does not have a publicly available manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL).
2.5 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
The Home Depot does not appear to offer financial incentives for senior management to implement its safer chemicals policy.
7.5 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The company provides some training to implement its policy. The Home Depot notes: “Depending of [sic] the complexity of the requirements the notifications range from in person training classes with HD personnel to policy letters with instructions and follow up contacts.”
For some products and product categories under its Chemical Strategy, The Home Depot requires suppliers to meet certain third-party standards that require third-party laboratory testing. For example, “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®.”Laminate flooring, “is verified by either GREENGUARD® Gold or FloorScore® certification to contain 0.0073 ppm or less of formaldehyde, which is a stricter standard than the EPA TSCA Title VI of 0.05 ppm.”
The Home Depot has not specifically disclosed that it conducts its own testing to ensure suppliers comply with its safer chemicals policy.
8.5 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
More recently, the company shared: “(The) Home Depot mandates that its suppliers use the WERCSmart program that requires chemical ingredient transparency for products sold to Home Depot. This requirement goes above the regulatory requirements for chemical transparency. The company uses this data in various practices to review and monitor chemical ingredients.” The company states this disclosure applies to: “all products that contain chemicals and are in a non-solid physical state,” including both private-label and brand-name products, and applies to “all chemicals,” including fragrance ingredients, allergens, nanomaterials, and likely contaminants.
This disclosure does not apply to articles.
15 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
In September 2019, The Home Depot announced that it will phase out the sale of all carpets and rugs containing PFAS chemicals. The company will stop purchasing for distribution any carpets or rugs containing PFAS chemicals by the end of 2019. This decision applies to all of its stores in the U.S. and Canada and online sales. The company plans to address carpets and rugs sold in its Mexico stores next.
In 2018, the company set new timelines to remove toxic chemicals from paint strippers and household cleaning products. The company was the third major retailer to announce restrictions on methylene chloride and NMP in paint strippers. In early 2019, the Mind the Store campaign identified paint strippers still being sold at The Home Depot containing methylene chloride and NMP. A few weeks later, a representative of The Home Depot told us that the company was removing its remaining inventory of methylene chloride- and NMP-containing paint removal products from shelves. Additionally, The Home Depot has now configured its register systems to block the sale of any methylene chloride- or NMP-containing paint removal products to customers.
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.
The Home Depot was the first major home improvement retailer to commit to phase out all ortho-phthalates in its vinyl flooring within one year, 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. Recent testing by the Ecology Center and Mind the Store campaign has confirmed The Home Depot has followed through on its commitment to phase out ortho-phthalates in vinyl flooring.
The company has also reported progress in reducing some plastics of concern in packaging. In its most recent sustainability report, the company reported that in: “2018, we eliminated more than 517,600 cubic feet — enough to keep six Olympic-size swimming pools of EPS foam out of landfills” and added: “In 2018, our packaging team eliminated 1.6 million square feet of PVC film from private-brand packaging, enough to cover 28 football fields.”
Over the years, the company has 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.
4.5 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
The company committed to phasing out the sale of paint removal products containing methylene chloride and NMP by the end of 2018. However, recent research has identified The Home Depot selling other paint removal products containing chemicals of concern that meet the GreenScreen Benchmark 1 criteria. The Home Depot must do a better job of ensuring substitutes for methylene chloride and NMP are safe.
8.25 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
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 The Home Depot’s strategy will promote the public disclosure of ingredients in products online or on product packaging or lead to the public disclosure of 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
3 out of 8.5 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
In 2019, the company also addressed gaps in the implementation of its ban on toxic paint strippers and relaunched its Eco Options website.
In 2015, The Home Depot became the first major retailer to ban the sale of ortho-phthalates in vinyl flooring. In 2017, the company launched its Chemical Strategy, which includes commitments to restrict CHCs, such as flame retardants, PFOA and PFOS, phthalates, vinyl chloride, and triclosan, from key product categories, including paints, vinyl, and laminate flooring, wall-to-wall carpet, and fiberglass insulation. In 2018, The Home Depot significantly expanded its policy by announcing new restrictions on nine chemicals in household cleaning products by the end of 2022, and a ban on the sale of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP in all of its stores by the end of 2018.
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