Category Archives: Markets and Retail

Putting Words Into Action: Walmart releases detailed plans to implement its chemical policy

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Health Scientist.  Boma Brown-West is a Manager for Consumer Health.

Today, Walmart unveiled its sustainable chemicals policy Implementation Guide. The Guide details how the company will work with suppliers to bring safer products to millions of American shoppers, as announced last September when the policy was introduced.

Walmart’s chemicals policy affects formulated consumable products – the non-food products that you can pour, squeeze, dab or otherwise apply to your body or use in and around your home or car, from health and beauty aids to baby products to pet supplies. There are three main components of the policy:  transparency through expanded ingredient disclosure; advancement of safer product formulation through the reduction, restriction, and elimination  of priority chemicals and use of safer substitution practices; and a plan to take Walmart private brand consumables through the U.S. EPA Design for Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program — a rigorous product certification program that reviews the safety of product ingredients. Walmart’s policy is audacious in that it attempts to evolve from the common restricted substance list (RSL) approach to one that actively promotes usage of safer chemicals.  The release of the Implementation Guide makes public how this is expected to happen.  Read More »

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Making regrettable substitution a thing of the past

Michelle Harvey is a Senior Project Manager in EDF's Corporate Partnership Program.

Regrettable substitution. Informed substitution.

The first sounds like a problem – and it is. The second is the way you avoid the first.

In the world of consumer products made from mixtures of chemicals – baby lotion, shampoo, cleaners, laundry soap – chemists seek ingredients that are effective and feasible. What they too often don’t also consider are the hazardous properties of the chemical and its risk to people.  This is in part because most chemists are not trained in toxicology.  Further, many of the biological interactions between us and the ingredients in everyday products we use on our bodies and in our homes are only now being understood.  As our understanding has grown, groups such as EDF have called for the removal of some of the more concerning chemical ingredients from store shelves.

But it’s not as simple as just taking a hazardous chemical out of a product.  While in some instances a chemical of concern can be simply eliminated, in many cases these chemicals perform a key function in a product and a replacement chemical is necessary.  If the replacement isn’t carefully considered for its own potentially deleterious effects, you can end up exchanging a problem for a problem – resulting in a regrettable substitution. 

The good news is that the path forward for identifying and making informed choices about substitutes has become a lot clearer. 

Today, EDF together with BizNGO, the Toxic Use Reduction Institute and the Lowell Center for Sustainability released The Commons Principles for Alternatives Assessment with the support of over 100 representatives of business, universities and NGOs.  This broad consensus around simple, solutions-based principles, signals a growing commitment to moving hazardous chemicals out of the supply chain and driving informed, safer innovations. 

Alternatives assessment is a process for identifying, comparing, and selecting safer alternatives to chemicals of concern based on certain chemical features including hazard, performance, and economics.  The six “Common Principles” establish key elements of informed decision-making about the chemicals in a product.  Reduce hazard. Minimize exposure. Use best available information. Require disclosure and transparency. Resolve trade-offs. Take action.  They are “common principles” because they are shared by a broad, diverse group of individuals from academia, industry and the NGO community.

In September, Walmart became the first retailer to call for informed substitution as suppliers phase out of chemical ingredients of concern in products it sells. It is EDF’s hope that the Commons Principles will be used to meet this commitment, and inform the efforts of other retailers and product manufacturers.  Smart and informed decisions guided by the Commons Principles can make products safer and regrettable, hazardous substitutions a thing of the past.

 

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EDF Applauds New Walmart Policy That Promises Safer Products for Consumers

Here is EDF's release on Walmart's announcement today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

EDF Applauds New Walmart Policy That Promises Safer Products for Consumers

New chemicals policy today promises to bring safer, healthier products
to the 80 percent of Americans that shop at Walmart

September 12, 2013

CONTACT: Katie Ware, kware@edf.org, (212) 616-1283

BENTONVILLE, Ark.—Walmart announced a new chemicals policy today that promises to bring safer, healthier products to the 80 percent of Americans that shop there. The policy was unveiled during Walmart’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting and focuses on chemical ingredients in consumables –household cleaners, personal care products and cosmetics.

Walmart is calling for expanded ingredient disclosure, targeting about ten key chemicals of concern for substitution with better ingredients and looking to take its private brand products through a rigorous screening process.

“Today’s announcement is yet another indication that consumers, advocates and business are working together to fill the void left by Washington’s inaction on chemical safety,” said Sarah Vogel, Director of EDF’s Environmental Health program.

EDF worked closely with Walmart to prioritize the removal of toxic chemicals in household, personal care and beauty products. Walmart’s new chemicals policy targets about ten hazardous chemicals in consumer products for replacement with safer ingredients and significantly expands ingredient disclosure to the public.

“Some companies stop at issuing a restricted substances list,” said Vogel. “No other company is requiring the all-important, but often forgotten, second step to truly transformational phase-outs: putting a system in place that avoids regrettable chemical substitutions. EDF commends this aggressive new policy.”

 

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Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org), a leading national nonprofit organization, creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. EDF links science, economics, law and innovative private-sector partnerships. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/EnvDefenseFund and on Facebook at facebook.com/EnvDefenseFund.

 

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Two safer chemicals initiatives garner national headlines: Mind the Store campaign and The Safe Chemicals Act of 2013

Richard Denison, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist.

This morning, two major daily newspapers carried stories on initiatives to ensure the safety of products containing chemicals to which people are increasingly exposed in their daily lives.

A story in USA Today covers the launch of Mind the Store, a campaign that asks the top 10 retailers in the country to develop and make public their plans to address toxic chemicals in the consumer products they sell. 

Also today, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran a story on the introduction of the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 in the U.S. Senate, which would amend the core provisions of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) for the first time since its passage 37 years ago. 

See more information on each of these initiatives below.  Read More »

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