Lowe’s earned a D+ grade, scoring 36 out of 135 possible points, reflecting a demonstrable improvement from its D- grade in 2017, and resulting in a rank of 19th among 40 retailers. Over the past year, the company made its first-ever commitment to developing a comprehensive chemicals policy and demonstrated impressive leadership by becoming the first major U.S.-based retailer to announce a global ban on the sale of paint strippers containing methylene chloride and NMP in all of its stores. This helped spur a major ripple effect among other large home improvement, paint, and big box retailers who joined the market shift away from toxic paint strippers. In 2015, Lowe’s also adopted a policy to eliminate phthalates in its flooring by the end of 2015, making it the second largest home improvement retailer in the country to adopt such a policy.
Opportunities for improvement: Lowe’s should leverage its successes by phasing out methylene chloride, NMP, and ortho-phthalates in other products it sells, develop a written safer chemicals policy, and set public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating additional chemicals of high concern such as halogenated flame retardants and PFAS chemicals in other key product categories. Lowe’s should become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers. Lowe’s should also pilot the Health Product Declaration with suppliers.
KEY SOURCE: 2016 CSR report, available from https://newsroom.lowes.com/news-releases/2016-csr-report/
Summary of Lowe’s Grade
0 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
However, as of the writing of this report, Lowe’s has no public written safer chemicals policy, 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
They also noted that the board “public policy committee is responsible for overseeing Lowe’s sustainability and corporate responsibility programs and communicating associated risks to the board” and that the “Lowe’s board of directors or committees of the board review the following corporate responsibility topics at least once per year: responsible sourcing, sustainable consumer products, environmental protection and sustainability.” Partial credit is awarded since the company has yet to develop a safer chemicals policy.
It is not clear if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemical policies.
2.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The company also conducts annual testing for wood flooring (laminate/composite wood and bamboo) to ensure compliance with both CDPH 1350 for VOC’s and CARB requirements for formaldehyde nationally. The company notes, “when there are state-specific regulations on chemical composition, we test to ensure national compliance.” They state, “in 2016, more than 13,000 product tests were conducted in 87 third-party labs around the world. The Quality Assurance team also works closely with third-party agencies to conduct pre shipment product inspections prior to acceptance by Lowe’s. Products are inspected for proper labeling, functional operation and consistency across production samples to help ensure customer satisfaction. In 2016, factories were visited nearly 11,000 times to perform these pre shipment product inspections.”
The company has, however, not specifically disclosed initiatives to audit or train suppliers to ensure supplier conformance with its initiatives around chemicals. Partial credit is awarded since Lowe’s does not have a safer chemicals policy.
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
In its most recent sustainability report, Lowe’s stated it “continues to focus on phasing out… neonicotinoid pesticides, formaldehyde, ortho-phthalates and VOC paints from our product portfolio.”
In 2015 Lowe’s was the second major U.S. retailer to work with suppliers to eliminate all ortho-phthalates in residential vinyl flooring, one of the largest uses globally. Lowe’s enforces the California formaldehyde restrictions for all laminate, engineered, and bamboo flooring categories. The company also restricts lead to 600 parts per million (ppm) in surface coating for all products, not just regulated items.
0 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
0 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Lowe’s does not appear to encourage or require the disclosure of ingredients in products sold online or on product packaging or publicly disclose 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
1.5 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
0 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
The company also sells a large selection of VOC-free paints in the U.S. and 100 percent low-VOC paints in Canada (in compliance with Canadian regulations).
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