Panera Bread is making progress in addressing key toxic indirect food additives that may be in food contact materials. Panera Bread earned a letter grade of D+, a significant improvement over its score of F in 2018. The company scored 34.25 out of 146.5 points, ranking 25th out of 43 retailers.
Panera Bread has established a safer chemicals policy that restricts substances in food packaging (and serves to prevent the introduction of these substances from the packaging into the food), that goes beyond regulatory compliance and includes PFAS, bisphenols, and phthalates. However, the company has not publicly disclosed its beyond restricted substance list (BRSL). The company has also moved from PVC gloves (which may contain phthalates) to polyethylene gloves (that are free of phthalates) for food handling, restricts chemicals of concern in cleaning products, and has started the process for switching one type of to-go packaging (baguette bags) to PFAS-free materials.
Opportunities for improvement: Panera Bread can make progress by fully disclosing its packaging BRSL and developing a comprehensive public written safer chemicals policy that ensures supplier compliance with the policy, sets quantifiable goals with clear timelines (beyond moving away from PFAS in baguette bags), and completely eliminates and safely replaces any toxic indirect food additives that may be in food contact materials. The company should disclose its efforts and progress in eliminating chemicals of high concern from food packaging, including any PFAS that may be in food packaging besides baguette bags. Panera should also become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with suppliers.
Summary of Panera Bread’s Grade
11.25 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
This policy applies only to US locations, which are 88% of all Panera cafes.
Panera Bread’s 2015-2016 Responsibility Report, the most recent report available online, describes the company’s Restricted Substance List (RSL) for packaging but does not provide details about the chemicals on it. While this RSL is not public at this time, a Panera employee verified that it includes flourinated chemicals, phthalates, and bisphenols. The RSL serves as a BRSL for certain chemicals. Staff noted in September 2019 that “All new packages are assessed against our RSL. In addition, we are reviewing our legacy portfolio against the RSL. We aim to have this review completed by mid-2020.”
In October 2019, staff stated: “This Fall, we are switching over our first package, our baguette bag, over to PFC-free paper. Cafes will be fully transitioned by June 2020.” Partial credit is awarded for Panera Bread setting limited public quantifiable goals. Staff later clarified that PFC, in this context, means per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
Panera Bread has also established a “Food Policy” and a “No No List” for chemicals that it does not allow in its food.
The company has not established public quantifiable goals for reducing other chemicals of concern and does not have a publicly available manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL).
2.5 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
Panera notes that “senior leaders are held accountable for responsibility metrics in the same way they are for general business performance.” However, it is not clear if these metrics are tied to financial incentives.
Panera notes: “There is no specific Board committee to oversee corporate responsibility and sustainability, but the Board is regularly briefed on relevant social and environmental issues as well as any stockholder resolutions that may arise.”
2.5 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
Although the company stated that it assesses packaging materials for compliance with its BRSL, Panera Bread has not specifically disclosed that it trains suppliers on the company’s safer chemicals policy or reporting requirements, that it requires suppliers to conduct testing in third-party laboratories and provide results to the retailer, or that it conducts its own testing to ensure suppliers comply with its safer chemicals policy
2.5 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
The company does not require known impurities in packaging to be reported, and it does not seem as though they review the specific components of generic ingredients. Panera Bread’s disclosure requirements only apply to “all of our to-go packaging” (e.g., own-brand) and not “packaged foods from other vendors.”
6 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
The company also disclosed upcoming progress on PFAS in noting that it is starting to switch over its baguette bag to PFC-free paper this Fall and cafes will be fully transitioned to this paper by June 2020.
2 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
0 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Panera Bread does not appear to encourage or require suppliers to publicly disclose all indirect food additives in food contact materials and does not publicly disclose the identity of food contact materials that are currently free of CHCs that are indirect food additives going beyond regulatory compliance.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
0 out of 8.5 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
7.5 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
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