Target was awarded an A grade, receiving 95.5 out of 135 possible points, the second highest score of any retailer evaluated, which reflects an improvement from its B+ grade awarded in 2017. Target has continued to implement its policy in 2018, building on progress it has made over the past few years. In 2018, the company developed an RSL and MRSL for textiles (adopting the ZDHC MRSL) and guidance to suppliers for disclosing ingredients in formulated products, publicly disclosed the identity of chemicals that it was restricting in beauty and personal care products by CAS #, publicly reported on progress in removing chemicals of concern from beauty and personal care products, launched a new Wellness Icons program to make it easier for customers to identify products free of certain chemicals of concern, and funded and co-sponsored the Green Chemistry & Commerce Council’s (GC3) Preservatives Challenge to drive innovation in the preservatives category. In 2017, Target announced an impressive new safer chemicals policy along with ambitious goals to increase transparency of chemicals in products; reduce and eliminate classes of harmful chemicals in textiles, beauty, baby care, personal care, and household cleaning products; and invest in green chemistry research into safer alternatives. The policy applies to the company’s “entire value chain, operations and every product” it sells, including both private-label and brand-name products. The policy includes clear goals and timeframes for reducing harmful chemicals, and the company has committed to expand the policy to address other product categories and chemicals in manufacturing over time. Target has pledged to publicly report on implementation in the year to come. Additionally, Target has become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and plans to participate in the upcoming survey.
Opportunities for improvement: Target can continue to improve its safer chemicals program by expanding the list of flame retardants and PFAS chemicals restricted in textiles, expanding the scope of textiles to include foam and infant/children’s car seats, and expanding the list of chemicals it is targeting for elimination in textiles and formulated household goods. The company should also expand its policy to address other chemically-intensive product categories such as electronics, baby and children’s products/toys, food, and food packaging (specifically PFAS chemicals and ortho-phthalates in food contact materials and the food supply chain).
Summary of Target’s Grade
15 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
The company’s safer chemicals policy does not appear to apply to packaging.
7.5 out of 7.5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
In its most recent sustainability report, the company stated that “The Board of Directors has delegated oversight responsibility over Target’s corporate responsibility matters to the Nominating and Governance Committee of the Board of Directors.” In last year’s report, the company noted that “Target’s EVP and Chief CSR Officer presents to the Board annually on CSR-related topics. Additionally, new directors participate in an orientation program that includes discussions with senior management, background materials on the Corporation’s plans, organization and financial statements, including CSR strategy, priorities and progress.”
5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
The company also stated: “We have and will continue to provide our vendors guidance on our RSL, MRSL and chemical management via our on-line supplier platform.” The guidance for formulated products in cleaning, baby, beauty, and personal care is primarily focused around business-to-business disclosure and does not currently include requirements around third-party testing.
The company also requires third-party testing for private-label products that meet credible third-party safer chemicals standards such as Oeko-Tex.
The company has, however, not specifically disclosed initiatives to audit suppliers or conduct its own testing to assure conformance with its chemicals policy.
7.5 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
In 2018, the company provided new specific guidance to suppliers on complying with this disclosure policy, which applies to all intentionally added ingredients including fragrance ingredients, but does not include substances which may migrate from packaging or other unknown sources of contamination. The company set a deadline of December 31, 2018 for suppliers to grant permission via the WERCS for this data to be disclosed to Target. This guidance document is available online at https://corporate.target.com/_media/TargetCorp/csr/pdf/Target-Chemical-Policy_Formulated-Implementation-Guide.pdf
In 2018, for the first time the company publicly reported on progress in achieving business to business transparency for the relevant product categories. Staff shared: “We have full transparency for 15 percent of items in beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning formulated products. We do not have full transparency to 23 percent of our products and do not have permission to screen 62 percent of our products.”
Target uses the UL WERCSmart and PurView platforms for collecting and evaluating information about chemical ingredients in consumables and other formulated products. Suppliers used to be graded on transparency and disclosure practices through Target’s Sustainable Product Index (SPI) but the company has appeared to sunset this tool after it developed its broader chemicals policy.
15 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
In its 2018 sustainability report, for the first time the company publicly reported on metrics in implementing its chemicals policy, particularly for beauty, baby care, personal care, and household cleaning products. The company shared: “18 percent of items in beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning product categories are formulated without phthalates, propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors or NPEs. We do not have 20 percent of our products formulated without these chemicals and do not have permission to screen 62 percent of our products.” For textiles, the company noted that it is still establishing the baseline for which textiles contain flame retardants and PFAS chemicals, but the current guidance document does not adequately address all flame retardants and PFAS chemicals of concern.
4 out of 10 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
9 out of 15 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
Transparency is one of Target’s three pillars in its new safer chemicals policy, which states: “Target will strive for full visibility to chemicals contained in and used to make the products we sell and use in our operations. Target will work toward the long-term goal of full material disclosure for all products and processes across all categories and in our operations. Target will approach transparency in the supply chain as an iterative process, continually adding more product categories and achieving increasing levels of transparency.” Along with the policy, in 2017 the company set a new goal to “achieve transparency to all ingredients, including generics such as ‘fragrance’, in beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning formulated products by 2020.”
This, however, appears to solely focus on business-to-business transparency, not business-to-consumer transparency. In its new guidance document for suppliers of household formulated products, such as cleaning products and personal care products, the company states that it will not “Publish product level details (unless granted via additional Data Use Tiers.”
Target previously had encouraged suppliers to publicly disclose ingredients on packaging and their websites including nanomaterials, fragrance, allergens, and other generic ingredients through its Sustainable Product Index (SPI), but that program appears to have been sunset as no new information about the SPI has been shared over the past few years.
However, Target does provide filters under “Health Information” on its Beauty product pages, for example, that indicate which products are free of formaldehyde, formaldehyde donors, nonylphenol ethoxylate, parabens (as well as butylparaben & propylparaben), and phthalates. The company also highlights products that are free of these chemicals through its Wellness Icons program. Target has also developed “wellness icons” to promote products in stores that are free of chemicals of concern such as phthalates.
1.5 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
6 out of 7.5 points
Third-party Standards: Promotes credible third party standards for safer products
Last year, Target announced that “Aligning with this strategy to remove unwanted chemicals from our supply chain, all of our Target owned-brand towels are now Oeko-Tex certified, a global testing and certification system for textile products at all processing levels.” In 2017 Target also announced a new baby brand, Cloud Island, a line of nearly 500 products that meets the Oeko-Tex Standard 100, which restricts more than 300 chemicals of concern. Target has also reformulated most of its Up & Up liquid hand soap products to meet the EPA Safer Choice criteria, and Target’s Cat & Jack organic pajamas meet the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), which prohibits numerous chemicals of high concern.
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
The company noted, “18 percent of items in beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning product categories are formulated without phthalates, propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors or NPEs. We do not have 20 percent of our products formulated without these chemicals and do not have permission to screen 62 percent of our products. In 2018, we will continue to work with vendors to try to obtain permission to screen products and better understand which products meet our goal, and which need to be reformulated.”
In last year’s sustainability report, the company committed to continue to expand the scope of its policy: “As we move forward, we will continue to iterate, update and set new goals as needed, expanding the categories we cover and chemicals addressed.”
5 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
To meet the criteria for the Essentials and Beauty category, the company states a product must meet the following criteria at a minimum: “formulated without the following unwanted chemicals: propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, phthalates, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors or nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). To understand the formulation and the chemicals therein, we also expect full ingredient transparency from our vendors of these products for screening purposes. This means that generic ingredients, like fragrance, must either be natural or have sub-ingredients listed.” Examples of icons include “phthalate free”, “paraben free”, “responsible” (citing 3rd party standards such as Safer Choice), and “no added fragrance.” However, one of the icons Target has developed is “non toxic” which is for a product that “makes an unqualified on-pack non-toxic statement (the statement cannot be limited to humans or environment).” This could be misleading to Target customers, unless it was instead based on a credible third party safer chemicals standard.
This program builds off of and essentially replaces Target’s Made to Matter program that was created in 2014 to promote and feature products online and on store shelves with key sustainability improvements.
5 out of 5 points
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
5 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions
In its most recent sustainability report, the company shared: “in 2017, we made investments in one impact Venture Capital Fund focused on green chemistry and four NGOs for a total commitment of $802,440. All investments fall within our Green Chemistry Innovation focus areas of Awareness; Transparency Infrastructure; Hazard Profiles & Other Safety Data; and Safer Alternatives to Market. We plan to invest the total $5 million along a bell curve with lesser dollar amounts in 2017 and 2021, with the bulk of funding in 2018-2020.” The company released an RFP for 2018 grant making this past spring.