Target Announces New Wide Ranging Chemical Strategy

Minneapolis-based retailer Target has announced a new chemical strategy that addresses every national and Private Brand product it sells. The new chemical strategy addresses the entire value chain, operations and every product they sell—a first in the retail industry. And with it, a new policy: Target is committed to driving transparency, proactive chemical management and innovation across all of their private and national brand consumer products, and operations.

Over the years, Target has introduced new, better-for-you product options like their Simply Balanced grocery private brand. The retailer brought partners together in the name of finding smarter solutions—even co-hosting a day-long summit with Walmart and Forum for the Future, where 50 beauty and personal care companies and organizations met to discuss product sustainability. They have set high standards for product quality and safety, like their Sustainable Product Index (SPI) created in 2013, which helps assess products for healthier living, environmental impact, packaging and sourcing practices.

“Our chemical strategy will be one of the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry, including all Target-owned and national brand products and operations, not just formulated products,” says Jennifer Silberman, chief sustainability officer, Target. “It’s ambitious, but using our size, scale and expertise, we think we’ll be able to make significant progress. And we hope our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry. Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry.”

Along with the policy, Target is introducing their first set of goals. They’re aimed at addressing unwanted chemicals with the biggest potential health impact, factoring in their prevalence within their products. The retailer is also prioritizing the areas guests tell us are most important to them—such as products that go on, in and around their body.

To get things started, Target is teaming up with vendors, supply chain partners, NGOs and other organizations across the industry to identify unwanted substances in products and operations, understand how they impact health, and work to develop safer alternatives.

“Making informed choices should be simple for guests,” says Dawn Block, senior vice president, essentials and beauty, Target. “This framework is designed to take the complications out of finding better-for-you product options. We’re looking forward to working with our vendors on solutions that will benefit us all.”

One example where they have already made progress? Their partnership with household brand Seventh Generation. “This announcement is a huge win for consumer transparency and we’re thrilled that Target is taking this step,” says John Replogle, CEO, Seventh Generation. ”It’s a forward-thinking policy like this that will drive industry change, ensuring that the health of our planet and its people are never compromised for profit.”

The new chemical strategy is an integral part of Target’s sustainability commitments and overarching responsible sourcing aspirations. It will build on several their existing tools and efforts, like the SPI, and sometimes require them to develop new tools to help meet the needs.

In some cases, the work will mean innovating to find safer chemical alternatives. We know this is an enormous task with no easy answers, so Target plans to invest resources and expertise, especially where no viable substitutions currently exist. For example, Targets work during the GC3 Preservatives Challenge to drive innovation in the preservatives category has helped to advance greener chemistry in beauty and personal care products.

“Part of knowing what’s in products is understanding where they come from and how they’re made,” says Irene Quarshie, vice president, quality & compliance, Target Sourcing Services. “So we’ll build on our work in the responsible sourcing space to help us verify that supply chain processes are sustainable, as well as ethical and responsible, from beginning to end.”

Starting February 2017, Target will report on its progress each year in their Corporate Social Responsibility Report. And because the retail landscape is always changing, they will continue to iterate, update and set new goals as needed, expanding the categories we cover and chemicals addressed.

“We’re excited to kick off this long-term effort, understanding that this is a journey, and it takes everyone working together to truly make a difference,” Jennifer says. “We look forward to working with our partners on further reducing the presence of unwanted substances in the homes and workplaces of millions of guests, and helping to enhance their health and well-being.”

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.