This past week, Bentonville giant Walmart announced that it would cut down or eliminate approximately 10 major toxic chemicals from its Private Brand products, including cleaning and cosmetics and require manufacturers to eventually reveal use of those ingredients to customers.
Starting in 2015, the retailer will require suppliers to reveal the use of toxic chemicals online. By 2018, any remaining chemicals on Walmart’s list will have to be disclosed on packaging. But the retail giant hopes that suppliers never actually get to the point of having to blast their use of toxic chemicals to the world–the company plans to work closely with them to ensure that they can phase out the chemicals over the coming years.
The company has not named the chemicals on its list. Before releasing the list publicly, Walmart “wanted to work with suppliers, and be mindful that it’s going to take some time to communicate with suppliers on policy,” explained Andrea Thomas, Walmart’s senior vice president of sustainability and former vice president of private brands, on a press call. When evaluating which chemicals to focus on, Walmart reportedly evaluated the impact, viability and availability of alternatives, and the cost implications.
Walmart worked with the Environmental Defense Fund to develop its list; in 2009, the two organizations developed GreenWERCS, a chemical screening tool that ultimately revealed a disturbing statistic: almost half of all formulated products on Walmart shelves harbor “chemicals of concern.”
High profile chemicals that could be on the list include: triclosan, pthalates, parabens, and formaldehyde.
Despite its convictions, Walmart will not delist manufacturers who continue to use toxic chemicals. “We’re not at the point where we stop carrying a product because of a sustainability issue,” said Thomas. “If they’re working towards solutions with us, that’s the outcome we want.”