Macy’s earned a letter grade of D+, which reflects a significant improvement from its F grade in 2018. The company scored 32.75 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 26th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
Macy’s, which also owns Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, made significant progress this year by announcing the development of a safer chemicals policy and establishing a timeline for developing and implementing a restricted substance list (RSL) and manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL). However, it is uncertain at this point if the RSL and MRSL will go beyond regulatory compliance. Macy’s intends for the RSL to cover private-brand apparel, footwear, and home textiles by 2022 and non-apparel categories “beginning in 2024” and the MRSL will cover private-brand children’s apparel/footwear and home textiles by 2023 and non-apparel product categories “beginning in 2025.”
The company requires all private-label leather tanneries to be Leather Working Group-certified by 2021, and noted the progress in achieving that certification (currently 71%) and how the certification “requires a serious and continuous commitment to responsible consumption and elimination of hazardous chemicals by the tanning facility.” The company notes that it has partnered with OEKO-TEX to sell some private-label sheets, bath towels, and rugs certified to “MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX,” or “STANDARD 100” which means that certain toxic chemicals are limited. In its most recent sustainability report, the company stated that by fall 2019, “all of Macy’s moderately priced sheets will have been independently certified” as MADE IN GREEN, and in 2019, “Macy’s will begin offering selected Women’s and Men’s apparel” that are certified to STANDARD 100.
In 2015, Macy’s started to take some actions to address toxic chemicals in its products by committing to eliminate flame retardants in the furniture it sold, but it has not publicly discussed the status of this commitment since then.
Opportunities for improvement: Macy’s can make progress by developing a strong public written safer chemicals policy, developing and enforcing a public beyond restricted substance list (BRSL) that clearly goes further than legal or regulatory requirements, and setting public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern (CHCs), especially any per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic flame retardants, and phthalates that may be in the products it sells. The company should also adopt and implement strong accountability measures and disclosure requirements along with the safer chemicals policy. Macy’s should also become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers. Finally, Macy’s should report on the status of its commitment to eliminate toxic flame retardants in furniture.
Note: Our assessment is primarily based on the policies and practices of Macy’s, the parent company.
Summary of Macy’s Grade
5 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
According to the sustainability report, this policy includes a timeline for establishing and implementing (a) an RSL covering private-brand apparel, footwear, and home textiles by 2022 and non-apparel categories “beginning in 2024” and (b) an MRSL for private-brand children’s apparel/footwear and home textiles by 2023 and non-apparel product categories “beginning in 2025.” Staff reported to us that whether the RSL and MRSL will go beyond regulatory requirements is “currently under review and [they] will make appropriate determinations as the program is developed.” Since the RSL and MRSL are under development and it is not certain that the RSL or MRSL will go beyond regulatory compliance, we are awarding partial credit for both of these components.
It does not appear that Macy’s has set public quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating CHCs (since the details of Macy’s RSL and MRSL are not public yet) and its policy does not appear to apply to operations or packaging.
1.25 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
1.25 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The report also mentions that the Macy’s Product Integrity and Quality Assurance Group “oversees quality and testing programs,” but it does not indicate whether the company plans to conduct routine testing itself or require suppliers to test their products in third-party laboratories to determine compliance with the forthcoming RSL or MRSL. The company’s existing testing program requires third-party testing but appears to only (currently) be used to determine compliance with regulations and the company did not indicate any different plans for the future.
Macy’s has not specifically disclosed that it incorporates its safer chemicals policy or reporting requirements in supplier contracts.
0 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
3 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
More than four years ago, in October 2015, Macy’s committed to eliminating flame retardants in the furniture the company sold. Macy’s stated: “If we do identify a vendor that is still applying the old flame retardants [to furniture], we will be requiring them to cease doing so immediately.”
1 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
2.5 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Macy’s subsidiary Bluemercury discloses that its “M-61 Powerful Skincare” line of products “is 100% free from harmful parabens, sulfates, and phthalates” and that its “Lune+Aster” vegan makeup line is at least paraben-free on product pages under the heading of “About the Brand,” and sometimes puts these disclosures on packaging. Since Macy’s or its subsidiaries do not have official public, written safer chemicals policies, these disclosures cannot receive points for purposes of this report card. 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
3.75 out of 8.5 points
Third-party Standards: Promotes credible third party standards for safer products
Additionally: for “earth month” in 2019, Macy’s transformed “The [email protected]’s” (where the company features specific brands at 12 different locations) and highlighted 4 “green” brands, one of which was Loli, the “world’s first sustainable + certified MADE SAFE(R) organic beauty brand.”
The company also showcases “EWG Verified” products on its site and prominently features the certification stamp next to the products’ images.
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 its 2018 Sustainability Report, the company set goals for itself around establishing and implementing an RSL (covering private-brand apparel, footwear, and home textiles by 2022 and non-apparel categories “beginning in 2024”) and MRSL (for private-brand children’s apparel/footwear and home textiles by 2023 and non-apparel product categories “beginning in 2025”), though it is not certain that the RSL and MRSL will go beyond regulatory requirements. Macy’s also discussed its management of chemicals generally in this report. Additionally, the company disclosed that it is not only carrying products certified by OEKO-TEX but that it has partnered with this certification body “to supply select private label products certified with the STANDARD 100 or MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX® label.” Both of these standards appear to ensure the products are free of more than 300 harmful substances.
5 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
Bloomingdale’s also features and markets safer products on its website. “Wellchemist” is highlighted on the front page of the “Beauty” section of www.bloomingdales.com. The description states: “Our clean-beauty collection features next-generation science and proven formulas- always free of sulfates, parabens, and phthalates.”
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