Rite Aid earned a letter grade of B+, scoring 81.5 out of 135 possible points, ranking seventh out of 40 retailers in overall scoring. The company has more than doubled its 2017 score of 36.5 points. In 2017, Rite Aid disclosed to us that it was beginning to develop a safer chemicals program that included a Beyond Restricted Substances 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 grade this year by adopting a new safer chemicals policy and a significantly expanded RSL in September 2018, developing a range of accountability measures, reporting continued progress on eliminating chemicals of high concern 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 and to encourage suppliers to disclose ingredients to Rite Aid itself and to its customers (including fragrance ingredients).
Opportunities for improvement: Rite Aid can make even more progress by setting public quantifiable goals 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. Rite Aid can also improve by requiring suppliers to conduct alternatives assessments to avoid regrettable substitutions. The company should also become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Summary of Rite Aid’s Grade
10 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
Rite Aid has set public, quantifiable goals for reducing and eliminating chemicals of high concern in its products and has created an RSL. Its policy states: “In 2016, Rite Aid committed to eliminating eight chemicals of high concern from its own-brand formulated products by 2020. These chemicals include: triclosan, formaldehyde, toluene, butylparaben, propylparaben, diethyl phthalate, dibutyl phthalate, and nonylphenol ethoxylates.” The company also states that in the remaining months of 2018, it plans to expand its RSL to include 69 chemicals total, will expand its policy to apply to “formulated products made by national brands,” and will encourage suppliers to avoid ingredients not just on its RSL but on the six authoritative lists on the BPC stewardship list, which is made up of thousands of chemicals of concern. The company plans to eventually “extend its chemical policy to cover all of the products sold in its stores.”
The company does not have a publicly available Manufacturing Restricted Substance List (MRSL), and the policy does not appear to currently apply to packaging or to its operations, even though the company does state that “[it] will also review [its] operations to identify and act on emerging chemical issues that raise significant consumer concerns.” Rite Aid does not have any stores outside of the U.S.
5 out of 7.5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
The Board of Directors is engaged in implementing the chemicals policy. According to statements by staff, the CEO and Chairman requested that senior staff “take the responsibility of developing a more formalized approach to chemical safety.” Additionally, staff stated that “quarterly Board of Director presentations have included updates within the topic area of ‘Sustainability and Social Responsibility,’ which have presented our progress in developing a public chemical policy, adopting a Restricted Substances List, and developing a roadmap for expanding our use of WERCSmart to monitor and control chemicals in our portfolio.”
It is not clear if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemicals policies.
7.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
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 is 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.”
Rite Aid staff also stated that UL audits suppliers’ product ingredient lists to confirm that supplier responses are accurate.
6.5 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
15 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
In September 2018, Rite Aid stated: “The number of suppliers producing own-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%.” The company noted: “Rite Aid is on track to meet our elimination commitment by 2020.” This indicates additional progress toward Rite Aid’s goals. The company plans to begin reporting additional metrics starting in 2019, particularly progress towards the 100% elimination goal and the number of new products launched in a year that are free of these eight chemicals of high concern.
Rite Aid employees stated in 2017: “Since the initial survey [for suppliers] was released, we have been actively working with suppliers to eliminate these chemicals and reformulate products using safer alternatives.”
2 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
10.5 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Rite Aid states 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.” Staff added that the company is at first solely focusing on intentionally added ingredients, as opposed to contaminants or byproducts.
Additionally, Rite Aid has search filters allowing customers to more easily search for products in the Skin Care and/or Bath & Body categories that are paraben-free and phthalate-free under the heading of “Ingredient Preference.”
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
0 out of 7.5 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
5 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
The company notes on its website that it is still in the process of redesigning its stores as “Wellness Stores,” and it highlights as an offering: “All-natural personal care and home care products.” It is unclear how much signage this section will have in-store.
5 out of 5 points
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
Rite Aid staff later added that the company is “committed to being an active contributor to the group” and as of October 5, 2018 is proceeding through the membership application process, which has included “reviewing the BPC Leadership Group’s goals for alignment with Rite Aid’s.”
0 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions