Sephora earned a letter grade of B+, which reflects a significant improvement from its C grade in 2018 and D grade in 2017. The company scored 81 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 7th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
The improvement was driven by its July release of a new public-facing safer chemicals policy and associated beyond restricted substance list (BRSL). While Sephora has long maintained an extensive BRSL for its private-label products, the new policy applies to branded products it sells, with a commitment from the retailer to reduce the number of products it sells out of compliance with the BRSL by 50% in the next three years and with annual reporting of progress. This builds upon a voluntary program called “Clean at Sephora” which recognized branded products meeting a public BRSL which the retailer has also recently expanded. Together, its efforts represent a unique and positive effort among cosmetics retailers to start addressing chemicals of high concern (CHCs) in branded products.
Opportunities for improvement: Sephora can continue to work towards increasing transparency by making public the BRSL for its private-label products as well as disclosing ingredient information beyond that required by FDA rules, especially for fragrances. The company can increase the transparency of the ingredients of its private-label brands by disclosing the constituents of fragrances. The company should also expand the policy to target for elimination any per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that may be in the private-label and brand-name products it sells. Sephora should also become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Summary of Sephora’s Grade
12.5 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
Sephora requires the suppliers of its private-label products to additionally comply with a separate BRSL that, according to the company, includes more than 2,000 forbidden ingredients. The retailer stated that its BRSL for its private-label products includes fragrance ingredients and packaging and that it applies globally to its private-label products.
Sephora does not have a publicly available manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL) and the policy does not appear to apply to operations.
5 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
7.5 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The retailer has not specifically disclosed that it conducts its own testing to ensure suppliers comply with its safer chemicals policy.
8.5 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
12 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
2 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
8.75 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
On its website, Sephora identifies private-label products that comply with the company’s BRSL. Sephora, however, does not appear to encourage or require the disclosure of ingredients in products online or on product packaging beyond that required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for cosmetics.
In its Public Chemicals Policy released in July 2019, Sephora indicated that “By 2020, Sephora aims for 100% of formulated beauty and personal care products to have all intentionally added ingredients … listed on our US Sephora.com website,” although the company notes that this does not include fragrance ingredients.
0.75 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
1.5 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
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
5 out of 5 points
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
2.5 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions