Walgreens earned a letter grade of B-, the same letter grade that it achieved in 2018. The company scored 65.25 out of 146.5 possible points, ranking 11th out of the 43 retailers evaluated this year.
In 2018, Walgreens launched a new safer chemicals policy, including public quantifiable goals and a public beyond restricted substance list (BRSL). As an initial step, the policy applies largely to private-label products in the baby, beauty, personal care, and household cleaning categories. Walgreens has set a goal of eliminating all of the chemicals on its RSL in these products by the end of 2021. The company is also requiring private label suppliers to disclose all intentionally added ingredients, including fragrance components, to Walgreens. Suppliers are encouraged to look to EPA’s Safer Chemical Ingredients List in finding safer alternatives, and they are encouraged to obtain third-party safer chemicals certifications for their products. More recently, the company shared that it will “list the ingredients in all owned brand household cleaners on their respective product labels by the end of 2019.”
Opportunities for improvement: The company can improve by strengthening measures to ensure conformance with its safer chemicals policy, including conducting its own testing and requiring suppliers to test in third-party laboratories. The company should add per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) to the list of chemicals it is restricting in baby, beauty, personal care, and household cleaning products. Walgreens should also expand the scope of its policy to brand-name products and require suppliers to conduct alternatives assessments to avoid regrettable substitutions. Walgreens should become a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project and pilot it with key private label suppliers.
Note: Our assessment is primarily based on the policies and practices of Walgreens (as opposed to the other businesses that are part of Walgreens Boots Alliance).
Summary of Walgreens’ Grade
10 out of 17.5 points
Policy: Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy
Walgreens Boots Alliance plans to apply the policy initially to Walgreens- and Boots-owned brand and exclusive consumer retail formulated products in the baby, beauty, personal care, and household cleaning product categories. The company intends to work with its suppliers to eliminate the chemicals on its (B)RSL from these products by the end of 2021 and plans to report on its implementation publicly going forward. The company has yet to report on progress in meeting the 2021 goal. The company also created a list of chemicals that it is monitoring and “over time…looking to restrict and/or minimize across [its] product portfolio.” For just the beauty and personal care subcategories, Walgreens plans to also monitor for chemicals on the Beauty and Personal Care Stewardship List. The policy applies to all of its stores.
The company has not developed a publicly available manufacturing restricted substance list (MRSL), and the policy does not appear to apply to packaging or operations. In its 2018 CSR report, Walgreens defines packaging, in the context of its CSR materiality assessment, as: “Working to reduce negative impacts of product packaging, including using recycled/recyclable packaging, eliminating chemicals of concern from packaging and other steps.” However, the company does not provide further details on “eliminating chemicals of concern from packaging” in the rest of its report or its Chemical Policy Statement.
3.75 out of 5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
Walgreens did not provide further information on financial incentives for senior management to implement its safer chemicals policy, so we are only awarding partial credit for this component.
2.5 out of 12.5 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
Walgreens’s policy notes that the company is monitoring certain chemicals that it is looking to restrict or minimize and expects all suppliers to monitor the use of chemicals on the six authoritative and regulatory lists that comprise the BPC stewardship list within their beauty and personal care portfolios.
In its 2018 CSR report, Walgreens does state: “We rigorously test our owned brand products on a regular cadence to help ensure they meet regulatory requirements and our own high standards related to safety.” However, the company doesn’t clearly tie “our own high standards related to safety” back to its safer chemicals policy.
Walgreens has not specifically disclosed that it incorporates its safer chemicals policy or reporting requirements in supplier contracts, 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.
6.5 out of 13 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
The company’s previous 2017 sustainability report stated: “Walgreens Boots Alliance is building on the systems we have in place for our sourcing teams in the UK and Asia in order to achieve a consistent level of traceability with all of our product brand suppliers. During fiscal 2017, Walgreens acquired and began implementing tools to achieve greater traceability in its supply chain and products, a key step toward developing comprehensive policies around product sustainability. Walgreens began to use the UL PurView Platform, a customizable system to help enable the business to collect data across its supply chain and make more informed decisions about the sourcing of materials, ingredients and products. The tool will allow Walgreens to compare ingredients against sustainability standards for products registered with UL WERCSmart, a supply chain information system.”
In 2017, the company also stated: “Walgreens currently requires all applicable formulated products to register with the UL-WERCS. Walgreens also utilizes PurView in conjunction with the WERCS to appraise product formulations in targeted categories against a variety of evaluative lists of less desirable chemical ingredients.”
6 out of 16 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern (CHCs) within the last three years
The company has not disclosed any additional progress since its safer chemicals policy was released last year, particularly in how the policy is now driving the reduction or elimination of other chemicals of concern in its private-brand products.
4.5 out of 13.5 points
Safer Alternatives: Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes
11.5 out of 18 points
Transparency: Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure
According to its safer chemicals policy, “Walgreens Boots Alliance encourages all suppliers of formulated products to endeavor to publicly disclose intentionally added ingredients (either on package labelling or digitally).” Staff added that they are also encouraging the disclosure of fragrance components. The company also discusses these goals with vendors and is working on figuring out incentives for this disclosure.
In its 2018 sustainability report, the company stated: “In addition to removing certain chemicals, we believe in providing consumers with transparency and the information they want on ingredients in the products they use. As part of that commitment, we intend to list the ingredients in all owned brand household cleaners on their respective product labels by the end of 2019. In addition, we encourage all suppliers of formulated products to endeavor to publicly disclose intentionally added ingredients.”
The company was awarded three points for its efforts to encourage suppliers to publicly disclose ingredients because, although the company encourages this disclosure either on-pack or online, instead of “on-pack and online” as required by this point level in the rubric, the company goes beyond this point level by encouraging suppliers to disclose fragrance components. An extra credit point was awarded for Walgreens setting a deadline for disclosures on the product labels of owned brand household cleaners.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
3 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
5 out of 15 points
Continuous Improvement: Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy
Last year, before the 2018 retailer report card was released, Walgreens showed significant improvement by finally creating and publicly releasing its safer chemicals policy and also publicizing its BRSL. Walgreens has set a goal of eliminating all of the chemicals on its RSL in baby, beauty, personal care, and household cleaning products by the end of 2021, and has made strides in reformulating sunscreens so that a majority of the formulations do not contain two chemicals of concern.
2.5 out of 5 points
Safer Products: Program to promote safer products in stores and/or on website
Partial credit is awarded since these filters represent a step in the right direction. We encourage Walgreens to go further by ensuring all of the ingredients in its products are genuinely safer, not just that the products are free from a limited number of toxic chemicals.
5 out of 5 points
Collaboration: Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals
The group has developed an assessment tool that includes 32 key performance indicators that fall into the areas of packaging, disclosure, human health and supply chain, and the environment. The aim of this tool is to evaluate the sustainability of products and to increase the availability of sustainable products. Retailers will independently apply this system, providing brands with incentives to achieve their sustainability goals.”
Walgreens has not clarified how it intends to utilize this new tool.
0 out of 5 points
Impact Investment: Investing financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions