Behind the Label: the Blueprint for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Boma Brown-West is a manager on EDF’s Supply Chain Team within the Corporate Partnerships Program.

If you’re in the business of using chemicals to make consumer products – things like shampoo or baby lotions, spray cleaners or laundry soap – the last few years have likely been anything but dull. State legislatures have been passing laws restricting certain chemicals from products; consumers are demanding more transparency about product ingredients; and some of the nation’s biggest retailers, including Walmart and Target, have issued chemical policies of their own.

Having worked for years to reduce the public’s exposures to hazardous chemicals and drive incentives for safer innovations in chemistry, Environmental Defense Fund is encouraged to see the growing demand for ingredient transparency and chemical safety. But for companies impacted by these new policies, adjusting to new demands may be challenging. As a business strategy, waiting to respond to the next chemical of concern or the next regulatory action, as opposed to taking proactive steps to improve transparency and chemical safety, is an unsustainable means for addressing risk.

What if your company didn’t have to worry about the next retailer’s list of priority chemicals, the next set of state or federal policy changes or regulations, or the next chemical of concern du jour to light up social media outlets?

What if your corporate policies and processes had you ready for pretty much anything?

And what if changing business as usual to improve how your company makes decisions about chemicals could put you in a leadership position, help find new markets, and even save money in the long term?

EDF knows that there is a better way to address the safety of the chemicals in your products. For 25 years, we’ve been working with corporate partners from McDonalds and Fed Ex to AT&T and others to advance beneficial business practices that also support a healthier world. Our planet faces serious challenges, and we know business can and must be part of the solution to protecting human and ecosystem health and turning the corner on climate change.

We believe that 2015 is the year that companies across the supply chain will make truly safer chemical practices an integral part of daily commerce. To support this effort, as part of EDF’s Behind the Label initiative, we will share the learnings we have gathered in working on sustainable chemistry with a multitude of businesses involved in the consumer goods supply chain, including our work with Walmart. We’ll provide a framework for business leadership in the consumer chemicals space and guidance on strategies, tools, employee engagement and other approaches that can help every company adopt best in class safer chemical practices, policies and procedures.

In the first installment of Behind the Label, we’ll preview the basic blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplace, beginning with what EDF has found to be major pillars of leadership, including transparency, institutional commitment, change for the better, and more. We will discuss what you need to know and where to take the next critical steps toward safer chemicals.

Over the years, a lot has been written on how to make consumer products better and safer. While we’ve seen some improvement, problematic ingredients remain systemic, even as robust new science increasingly indicates old approaches to risk management are inadequate. Through Behind the Label, EDF strives to make safer chemicals actionable, by showing what’s already working for companies like yours, showcasing available tools, explaining the proven business strategies for successful implementation, and flagging what’s ahead, so you can be ready.

We look forward to the conversation.

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