With 34.75 out of 135 possible points, Kroger earned a grade of D+, an improvement over its grade of D- in our last two report cards, ranking 20th among 40 retailers. The company has begun to take some action to address toxic chemicals in the products it sells, but still has significant room for improvement. Kroger has no public safer chemicals policy. It stated last year that it is currently working with key stakeholders to review options for a future chemicals policy but has not launched one since then. In 2018, the company shared it “removed parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors from several Kroger brand health and beauty care items including skin lotions, skin cleansers, sunscreen, oral care and shampoo.” The company is also in the process of developing a restrcited substance list (RSL) for apparel going beyond regulatory requirements. Kroger has made some limited progress in reducing the use of BPA in canned food liners in 2018. In 2017, the company reported that it had converted 90% of its store-branded canned food liners away from BPA, and in 2018, it reported that the figure had increased to 92%. It has a goal to move to BPA-free liners in 100% of its brands of canned food. However, the company has not disclosed a timeframe or plan for completely eliminating and safely replacing BPA in canned food liners.
Opportunities for improvement: Kroger can make progress by developing a public written safer chemicals policy, setting public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern, and completely eliminating and safely replacing BPA and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging and food contact materials as well as phthalates in food and food contact materials in its supply chain. Kroger should become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Note — our assessment is primarily based on the policies and practices of Kroger, the parent company.
Summary of Kroger’s Grade
1.25 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
The company also shared that it recently initiated work on creating a Restricted Substances List (RSL), which goes beyond regulatory requirements, for its General Merchandise products, specifically apparel products (recognizing that apparel is one of the most environmentally-intensive production processes), and will be working with an external expert to develop this list.
The company has not set public quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern and does not have a publicly available Beyond Restricted Substance List (BRSL) or 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 a chemical policy or if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemical policies.
2.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
1. We will engage our suppliers during the RSL development process by gathering the suppliers’ chemical management status through a survey. This survey is drafted and planned to be distributed to our apparel suppliers in October.
2. Along with the beyond regulatory RSL development, a testing verification process will be established to monitor the supplier compliance with the RSL.
3. A training will be provided to apparel suppliers regarding the apparel chemical management process, including the RSL and expections for suppliers on their chemical management and the verification assurance process.”
There is no discernible effort to assess supplier conformance with safer chemicals policy (because Kroger has no public safer chemicals policy). Kroger does utilize routine third-party product testing to facilitate chemicals reporting requirements for children’s products sold in the states of Oregon and Washington, but this is primarily to meet regulatory requirements.
0 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
12 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
Kroger recently reported that it “removed parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors from several Kroger brand health and beauty care items including skin lotions, skin cleansers, sunscreen, oral care and shampoo” and that these reformulated products arrived on store shelves in 2018. The company shared that it “is also evaluating Our Brands products against the EPA Safer Choice program specifications.”
The company notes: “Kroger continuously evaluates its products for undesirable ingredients in order to keep our customers safe and to respond to their concerns. We review products on a category basis to remove chemicals of concern and undesirable ingredients such as artificial colors and flavors, additives and preservatives.” In addition, Kroger’s Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic brands maintain lists of undesirable ingredients for both its food and non-food products that suppliers must comply with in order to produce these products. Currently, Kroger has 1,400 unique Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic products on the market and continues to expand its Simple Truth and Simple Truth Organic product lines. A list of Kroger’s FREE FROM ingredients can be found on its Simple Truth website: https://www.simpletruth.com/why-simple-truth/free-from/. The company also states: “Over the last several years, the Our Brands team has responded to customers’ requests to remove certain ingredients from our products. We have also worked to reformulate alternatives for our baby products. They are now free from triclosan, quaternium-15, phthalates, parabens and chlorine free pulp. By the end of 2014, Our Brands body washes and antibacterial soaps were triclosan-free.”
1 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
1.5 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
The company states on its website that: “As packaging labels get updated, customers will be able to identify which canned goods have Non BPA liners by simply locating our standardized Non BPA liner icon across our corporate brands portfolio.” However, the company has not committed to publicly disclosing the identity of the alternative materials. The company does not appear to further encourage or require the disclosure of ingredients in products online or on product packaging.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
1.5 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
10 out of 15 points
Continuous Improvement: Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy
In 2018, the company shared it “removed parabens, phthalates and formaldehyde donors from several Kroger brand health and beauty care items including skin lotions, skin cleansers, sunscreen, oral care and shampoo.” The company is also in the process of developing a restrcited substance list (RSL) for apparel going beyond regulatory requirements.
2.5 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
0 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