Walgreens earned a B- grade, scoring 70.5 out of 135 possible points, and ranking eighth out of 40 retailers. This represents a significant improvement from 2017 when Walgreens received a D-. The company’s improved score is due to the release of its new safer chemicals policy, including public quantifiable goals and a public RSL. 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, and has already made strides in reformulating sunscreens so that a majority of the formulations do not contain two chemicals of concern. 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 to obtain third-party safer chemicals certifications for their products.
Opportunities for improvement: The company can improve by strengthening accountability measures, including conducting its own testing and requiring suppliers to test in third-party approved laboratories. Walgreens should also expand the scope of its policy beyond the categories currently covered 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 RSL from these products by the end of 2021. 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 monitor for chemicals on the Beauty and Personal Care Stewardship List.
Walgreens has also posted this policy on its Boots UK site.
The company has not developed a publicly available Manufacturing Restricted Substances List (MRSL), and the policy does not appear to apply to packaging or operations.
5 out of 7.5 points
Oversight: Established management responsibilities and incentives
The company states: “The Board of Directors of Walgreens Boots Alliance is committed to sound corporate governance and sets high standards for employees, officers and directors. The Board exercises oversight of the Company’s strategic, operational and financial matters, including the elements and dimensions of major risks facing the Company which may include risk management with respect to CSR matters. The Board has charged its Nominating and Governance Committee with reviewing, at least annually, the Company’s policies and activities regarding CSR.”
It is not clear if there are financial incentives for senior management to implement safer chemical policies.
2.5 out of 10 points
Accountability: Ensures supply chain accountability
Walgreens’ 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. However, the company doesn’t specifically mention that it requires suppliers to test in third-party approved laboratories for chemicals on Walgreens’ RSL, or that the company itself routinely tests parts, materials, or ingredients provided by suppliers to ensure conformance with the chemicals policy. Walgreens has also not disclosed any initiatives to audit suppliers to ensure they are in compliance with the policy.
6.5 out of 10 points
Disclosure: Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer
The company’s most recent sustainability report states: “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.” It will be utilizing PurView to appraise these formulations against various criteria in order to determine its approach to the development of various policies (including its Chemicals Policy and RSL).
6 out of 15 points
Action: Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern within the last three years
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
According to its new policy, “Walgreens Boots Alliance encourages all suppliers of formulated products to endeavour 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.
On its website, Walgreens has search filters allowing customers to more easily search for products, such as those in the Bath and Body category, that are paraben-free or phthalate-free, for example.
0 out of 7.5 points
Chemical Footprint: Evaluates its chemical footprint
3 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
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