Please join us in welcoming Safer Chemicals back to ShiftCon 2018 as a platinum sponsor!
The Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition has been a supporter of ShiftCon since the beginning. The coalition represents over 450 organizations and businesses united by a common concern about toxic chemicals in homes, places of work, and products we use every day. They fight for reform of outdated toxic chemical laws, work with retailers to phase out hazardous chemicals, and educate the public on ways to protect their families from toxic chemicals. They also reach out to consumers asking them to help encourage retailers to take action on toxic chemicals..
Last November, shortly before ShiftCon 2016, they released their first report card on toxic chemicals in consumer products. “Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals,” was the first major evaluation of the United States’ largest retailers’ safer chemicals programs. The investigation revealed that while some leading retailers were making significant progress to move the market away from toxic chemicals, others were seriously behind. Major U.S. retailers earned grades ranging from B for good progress to F for failing to develop and make public even basic safer chemical policies. (For last year’s report card results, click here.)
The Results Are In
This year’s report card evaluates 19 additional retailers on top of last year’s report, for a total of 30 retailers. To evaluate the retailers’ policies, publicly available information about corporate safer chemicals programs, was collected and reviewed, and Mind the Store shared their draft findings with retailers to provide them an opportunity to review the conclusions, disclose additional information, and make new public commitments towards safer chemicals.
For the second year in a row, retailers earned an average grade of D+ for the chemical safety of products sold at retail. However, the eleven retailers who were evaluated in both years raised their average grade from a D+ to a C. Of those eleven, seven retailers made significant improvements in their safer chemicals policies or programs. This good progress suggests that the Mind the Store Campaign has had a positive impact on product safety through its ongoing engagement with major retailers and consumers.
Leading The Pack
Two leading retailers substantially expanded their existing safer chemical policies and programs in the last year. As a result, their grades improved, as shown below along with each retailer’s overall ranking (in points) among all thirty retailers evaluated in 2017.
- Wal-Mart Stores (Walmart and Sam’s Club) improved from B+ to A-, ranking #2
- Target improved its grade from B to B+, and ranks #6
The five most improved retailers either adopted safer chemicals policies for the first time or substantially expanded existing programs this past year. As a result, their grades jumped significantly higher:
- CVS Health improved from a C to a B+ and climbed into a tie for the #3 spot
- Best Buy rose from a C- to a B and is now ranked #7
- The Home Depot rose in grading from a D+ to a C+ and ranks #8
- Costco improved the most from an F to a C- and now ranks #9 overall
- Albertsons Companies improved its grade from an F to a C- and ranks #10
Additionally, Amazon reported modest progress and their grade rose from an F to a D (not including its recently acquired subsidiary Whole Foods Market, which was scored separately). Amazon indicates that it’s “developing and evaluating a chemicals policy.”
With the jump in total retailers evaluated, a few high performance retailers were newly identified:
- Apple, earned an A and the overall #1 rank in scoring
- IKEA, received a B+ grade, tied for the #3 spot
- Whole Foods Market, the grocer acquired by Amazon, scored a B+ for a #5 rank
Overall, one-third of all 30 retailers evaluated in 2017 are leaders in ensuring the chemical safety of the products they buy and sell, earning grades ranging from A to C-.
Some Unexpected Failures
Unfortunately, too many retailers remain serious laggards without even the most basic policies in place to ensure the chemical safety of the products they buy and sell. Eight out of nine of the following retailers scored 0 out of 135 possible points, with a lack of any significant public-facing commitments to address the safety of chemicals in their products:
- Ahold Delhaize (which owns Food Lion, Stop & Shop, Hannaford, and Giant)
- Trader Joe’s
- TJX Companies (which owns TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods)
- Dollar General
- Ace Hardware
- Office Depot (including OfficeMax)
- Sally Beauty
- Toys“R”Us / Babies“R”Us
Several other of the largest U.S. retailers also seriously lag behind on safer chemicals. Earning various D grades were Amazon, Kroger (including Ralph’s and Harris Teeter), Lowe’s, and Walgreens. There were also several newcomers to the 2017 Report Card to earn D grades: Macy’s department store (also includes Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury), Ulta Beauty, Sephora, Dollar Tree/Family Dollar, Staples, Bed Bath & Beyond/buybuy BABY (also includes World Market), and Rite Aid.
Headed In The Right Direction
While comprehensive policies establish a foundation for retailer success on chemical safety, driving chemicals of high concern from the product supply chain remains a bottom line metric of meaningful progress. Over the past three years. the following retailers achieved serious reductions or elimination of dangerous chemicals far ahead of any government-imposed restrictions:
- Apple (#1) – Eliminated use of chlorinated organic solvents, N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP), and toluene in the final assembly of its products.
- Wal-Mart Stores (#2) – Since 2014, suppliers slashed high priority chemicals by 96% to Walmart and 49% to Sam’s Club, and more than halved priority chemicals for Walmart by 68% (all percentage reductions are by weight).
- CVS Health (#3 tie) – Removed parabens, phthalates, and major formaldehyde donors from nearly 600 beauty and personal care products across several store brands.
- IKEA (#3 tie) – Banned all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals from textiles, a major leadership milestone in phasing out these very persistent compounds.
- Whole Food Markets (#5) – Eliminated formaldehyde-releasing compounds and oxybenzone from body care products, and phased out BPA in 70% of store-brand cans.
- The Home Depot (#8) – Will eliminate alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) including NPEs in paints by 2019, and prohibited other chemicals of high concern in many products.
- Albertsons (#10) – Phased out BPA in more than 80% of store-branded can linings and in thermal receipt paper.
- Rite Aid (#11) – Suppliers eliminated triclosan, formaldehyde, diethyl phthalate, and dibutyl phthalate from its formulated products.
- Kroger (#17) – Converted 90% of its store-branded canned foods to non-BPA liners.
Yet, nearly one-half of the 30 retailers evaluated have not publicly reported any progress in reducing or eliminating chemicals of concern over the past three years. Evaluating safer alternatives remains a challenge for big retailers. Offering no guidance on avoiding regrettable substitutes, retailers only provide general, non-mandatory direction to their suppliers regarding safer alternatives.
While the report shows that we still have a long way to go as far as eliminating toxic chemicals from the marketplace goes, the improvements that were made show us that some retailers are listening, and are making efforts to change. You can read the full report here.
Safer Chemicals Needs Your Help!
Now more than ever, we need companies to step up and tackle toxic chemicals. Cancer cases and infertility rates are soaring—and scientists agree that exposure to toxic chemicals from various sources can contribute. We’re calling on the stores where we shop to take the lead on making sure the products they sell us are safe.
How can you help? Visit the Mind the Store website, and send a message now asking 30 top retailers to take action on toxic chemicals in products and packaging.
We’re so excited to have Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families as a part of the ShiftCon family. Attendees will be able to learn more about their work and about the retailer report card when visiting their booth in the expo. You also won’t want to miss their Friday workshop: What the F*ck is Going on In Washington?