Kroger earned a letter grade of C-, which reflects a slight increase from its D+ grade in 2018. The company scored 41.25 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 21st out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
In 2019, Kroger set a timeline to complete its phase-out of BPA in private-brand packaging (which it first pledged to address in 2011): the end of 2020. It also disclosed it was planning to launch a beyond restricted substance list (BRSL) for apparel in early 2020 and recently joined the AFIRM group. The company also shared that in 2019, it is “slated to introduce reformulated liquid hand wash products that are certified to the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice standard.” However, Kroger has no public safer chemicals policy.
It reported two years ago that it was working with key stakeholders to review options for a future chemicals policy, but has not launched one or reported any additional progress in developing one since 2018. 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.” 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%. However, the company has still not disclosed how it will ensure substitutes are safe.
Opportunities for improvement: Kroger can make progress by developing a public written safer chemicals policy, developing and enforcing a public BRSL for food packaging and other products beyond its limited BRSL for natural and organic products, and setting public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern (CHCs). In particular, we urge the company to eliminate and safely replace any toxic indirect food additives in food contact materials, with special attention paid to any bisphenols (including in brand-name food packaging) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that may be in food packaging and other food contact materials as well as any phthalates that may be in food and food contact materials in its supply chain. Kroger should also 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
3.75 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
In 2018, the company also shared that it initiated work on creating a BRSL for its General Merchandise products, specifically apparel products, and will be working with an external expert to develop this list. In 2019, the company shared an update stating it now planned to adopt the BRSL for Kroger apparel items in early 2020. Partial credit is awarded to recognize the company’s effort in creating this BRSL. The company also noted it will consider adding a manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL) in the future.
In 2017, the company disclosed it was working with key stakeholders to review options for a future chemicals policy, and in 2018, the company shared that it “continues to review additional product categories as well as data tracking capabilities as [it] evaluate[s] the opportunity for a broader safer chemicals policy.” However, Kroger has not launched a safer chemicals policy or disclosed any progress leading to a policy since then.
Kroger has no public written safer chemicals policy that applies to products, packaging or operations, and does not have a publicly available BRSL (besides those for natural and organic products or cans) or a publicly available MRSL.
1.25 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
Partial credit is awarded since the company has no safer chemicals policy.
1.25 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
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.
Otherwise, Kroger has not made any discernible effort to assess supplier conformance with any safer chemicals policy because Kroger has no public written safer chemicals policy or BRSL.
0 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
13.5 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
Kroger also reported in 2018 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.” In its 2019 sustainability report, the company reported: “In 2019, we are slated to introduce reformulated liquid hand wash products that are certified to the U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice standard.”
The company had previously noted: “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 food and non-food products that suppliers must avoid in producing 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 stated: “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.”
2 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
1.5 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
In 2017, Kroger stated it: “is currently working with key stakeholders to review options for a future chemicals policy.” The company shared in 2018 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 went on to state: “Kroger continues to review additional product categories as well as data tracking capabilities as we evaluate the opportunity for a broader safer chemicals policy.”
Two years after the company first stated it was reviewing options for a safer chemicals policy, Kroger still has no public safer chemicals policy or MRSL. The company has pledged to adopt and publish an RSL for apparel in 2020.
The company previously stated 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 suppliers to publicly disclose ingredients in products online or on product packaging.
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
In 2019, the company stated: “1) Several Kroger brand hand soaps are formulated to align with the EPA Safer Choice standard. We are evaluating additional formulated product categories for EPA Safer Choice alignment in the next few years. (2) We have recently began sourcing OEKO-TEX® STANDARD 100 certified products in some of our bedding and home textile products. This means that these products have been tested and passed for harmful substances in accordance with STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®.”
0 out of 5 points
Joint Announcement: Public commitment demonstrated through joint announcement
5 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