Rite Aid earned a letter grade of B+, the same letter grade that it achieved in 2018. The company scored 85.5 out of 146.5 possible points and ranked 5th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
In 2017, Rite Aid disclosed to us that it was beginning to develop a safer chemicals program that included a beyond restricted substance list (BRSL) applying to several chemicals of high concern (CHCs) in its private-label products. Rite Aid’s goal was to eliminate these CHCs from its formulated private-label products by 2020.
Rite Aid significantly improved its 2018 grade by adopting a new safer chemicals policy and a significantly expanded BRSL in September 2018, developing a range of accountability measures, reporting continued progress on eliminating CHCs from its products, and stating an explicit preference for ingredients on the EPA Safer Chemical Ingredients List. The company also disclosed plans for the near future to begin screening formulated products – both private-label and national-brand – for an expanded list of chemicals, to expand its policy to additional private-label formulated products, and to encourage suppliers to disclose ingredients to Rite Aid and to its customers (including fragrance ingredients).
In 2019, the company made even more progress by reporting additional metrics on progress toward meeting its goals and starting to screen national-brand products for chemicals on its expanded product BRSL and on the regulatory lists that comprise the Beauty and Personal Care (BPC) stewardship list. Additionally, Rite Aid has become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and encourages its store brand suppliers to participate in 2020. The company is also developing a BRSL for food contact materials.
Opportunities for improvement: Rite Aid can make more progress by setting public quantifiable goals with clear timelines for reducing and eliminating all chemicals on its expanded RSL and on the six authoritative lists that make up the BPC stewardship list for both private-label and brand-name products and by prioritizing action on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxic flame retardants, and all phthalates. Rite Aid can also improve by requiring suppliers to conduct alternatives assessments to avoid regrettable substitutions.
Summary of Rite Aid’s Grade
12.5 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
Rite Aid has set public, quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating CHCs in its products and has created a BRSL. The company stated in the Fall 2019 version of its policy: “In 2016, Rite Aid committed to eliminating eight chemicals of high concern from its private brand formulated products by 2020. These chemicals include: triclosan, propyl paraben, formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, diethyl phthalate, butyl paraben, [and] nonylphenol ethoxylates.” However, in a separate communication in September 2019, staff members clarified that the elimination commitment does not generally apply to components of generic ingredients such as fragrance, but they expect to receive generic ingredient components from “own brand” suppliers in the future. The company noted in its 2019 corporate social responsibility report that it expanded its BRSL to 69 chemicals total in 2018, and in 2019, it continues to encourage suppliers to avoid ingredients not just on its BRSL but on the six authoritative lists on the BPC stewardship list (made up of thousands of chemicals of concern). Staff members also told us in September 2019 that in 2018, the company expanded its policy to cover national-brand formulated products, committing to screen all personal care and household cleaning products against its expanded BRSL and all personal care products against the BPC list. Staff also stated that the screening will formally occur in 2020. In the Fall 2019 update to its policy, Rite Aid notes that the company’s “long-term goal is to extend its chemical policy to cover all of the products sold in its stores.”
The company noted in the 2019 update to its policy that in 2020, it “plan[s] to extend [the chemical program] to cover food contact materials,” so we awarded half-credit for the packaging component.
Rite Aid also stated in this update that: “We will continue to review our operations to identify and act on emerging chemical issues that raise significant consumer concerns.” In September 2019, staff noted its associates wear polyethylene food service gloves, rather than PVC gloves that may contain toxic ortho-phthalates, at hand-dip ice cream counters in stores on the West Coast. We have awarded half-credit for the operations component to recognize both efforts.
Rite Aid does not have any stores outside of the U.S.
The company does not have a publicly available manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL).
2.5 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
Rite Aid does not appear to offer financial incentives for senior management to implement its safer chemicals policy.
8.75 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
In Rite Aid’s 2019 update to its policy, the company stated that it “moved from survey-based assessments of RSL compliance to automated screening using the WERCSmart platform.” The company had planned for this to happen in late 2018, and according to staff, the company provided the newly released policy and expanded RSL and explained product screening expectations to the nearly 500 supplier partners at its annual supplier conference in September 2018. As of mid-October 2018, the company was finalizing vendor guidance documentation to be uploaded to its Supplier Portal to train vendors “on WERCSmart registration, Rite Aid data consent authorization, and product assessment reporting.” The vendor guidance document, which has been issued since then and updated further, is extensive and discusses supplier expectations related to the company’s chemical policy in detail. This guidance can serve as a model for other companies.
Rite Aid staff reported that the company is in the process of incorporating its safer chemicals policy into supplier contracts, and the chemical policy is already incorporated into an internal “onboarding checklist” and new item award letters.
3.5 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
Rite Aid requires suppliers to report nanomaterials in products when they register those products in the WERCSmart platform, so an extra credit point is awarded to recognize this.
15 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
In September 2018, Rite Aid stated: “The number of suppliers producing own-brand [a.k.a. private-brand] products for Rite Aid that contain these [initially listed chemicals of high concern] has dropped by 64%.” The company went on to state: “Most recent supplier surveys indicate that the number of own-brand products containing any of these [initially listed chemicals of high concern] has decreased by 54%.” Both of those statistics showed that Rite Aid was making progress in achieving its goals, and the company noted: “Rite Aid is on track to meet our elimination commitment by 2020.”
In September 2019, staff reported several positive metrics: “Since the introduction of our program and screening process, no new in-scope own brand items containing disclosed Evil 8 chemicals [the initially listed chemicals of high concern] have been approved or have made it to our shelves. Since October 2018, we have launched roughly 500 own brand items that are free of Evil 8 chemicals, and have successfully reformulated approximately 200 own brand items to eliminate Evil 8 chemicals.” Additionally, staff relayed compliance with the company’s 2020 elimination commitment. Out of the products for which primary formulation data is available (1,086 own-brand UPCs; primary formulations at this time generally exclude generic ingredient components), 93% comply with the commitment, over half of those that do not are being reformulated, and Rite Aid is working with suppliers to address the rest of the products. This is an improvement from 2018, when only 88% of own-brand products were in compliance with the commitment, as reported by staff in September 2019.
Since expanding its RSL to 69 total chemicals, staff reported in 2019 that 87% of own-brand products are free of all 69 chemicals, and 84% are free of chemicals on the BPC Stewardship List, which Rite Aid adopted to help identify emerging chemicals of concern. Staff also reported this year that about 9% of national brand products contain an “Evil 8” chemical and another 7% have an expanded RSL chemical. We encourage the company to quickly begin including – and ideally require the inclusion of – fragrance components in its elimination commitment and screening process, as some of the chemicals on its screening lists may be hidden by the generic term of “fragrance.”
The company also took action ahead of state and city bans and reformulated its own-brand sunscreen products with SPF under 50 to remove oxybenzone in late 2018; these products began appearing on shelves in February 2019. The company’s own-brand sunscreen with an SPF equaling 50 is currently being reformulated to remove oxybenzone.
4.5 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
12.5 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Rite Aid stated in its 2018 policy that it: “will encourage suppliers to publicly disclose all ingredients online or on pack, including the constituents of fragrance and other generic ingredients.” In 2019, the company updated the language in its policy and in its vendor guidance to convey it was encouraging a higher level of disclosure. Its supplier guidance document states that Rite Aid encourages “suppliers to publicly disclose all intentionally added ingredients (including the constituents of fragrance and other proprietary components and allergens) as well as nonfunctional constituents online and on pack (if practicable).” The policy also states: “Rite Aid is encouraging its own brand suppliers to replace generic ingredient names in their formulations with registered third-party components that identify the constituents in such components during 2020.”
In September 2019, the company reported that almost 150 own-brand product labels (on pack) show what chemicals the products do not contain, and for online sales, new “product attribute” filters have been added (some of which highlight ingredients that are not in the products), showing that the company is promoting on-pack and online disclosure.
3 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
0.75 out of 8.5 points
Third-party Standards: Promotes credible third party standards for safer products
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
The company also became a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project over the past year and encourages its own-brand formulated suppliers to participate in the survey in 2020.
The company clarified this year that its elimination commitment and screening (at least for own-brand products), at this time, generally only applies to non-generic ingredients, and the company expects to receive information on generic ingredient components in the future.
Additionally, per its plans as stated in its 2018 safer chemicals policy, and for which we previously awarded credit, in 2019, Rite Aid reported that it “moved from survey-based assessments of RSL compliance to automated screening using the WERCSmart platform. Suppliers are required to report all ingredients in their formulated products to WERCSmart.” The company also followed through on completing the process to join the multi-stakeholder Beauty and Personal Care (BPC) leadership group.
2.5 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