Two thirds of Retailers Are Serious Toxic Chemical Laggards

Just in time for the holiday shopping season, the Mind the Store campaign released its second annual report card on toxic chemicals in consumer products, which found that one-third of 30 major U.S. retailers are leaders, but two-thirds remain serious laggards. The report, Who’s Minding the Store? — A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals, includes evaluations of nineteen retailers for the first time.

Overall, eleven retailers evaluated in both 2016 and 2017 have showed substantial improvements in the past year, raising their grade from an average of D+ to C. Seven of these eleven retailers announced significant improvements over the last year alone: Albertsons Companies, Best Buy, Costco, CVS Health, The Home Depot, Target, and Walmart Stores, Inc. released new safer chemicals policies or initiatives most often in their private brands. This improvement shows both the impact of the Mind the Store Campaign, as well as growing consumer concern and scientific evidence of health impacts from dangerous chemicals.

Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign Director of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, and report co-author said, “We are thrilled that major retailers like Walmart, CVS Health, and Target are driving a race to the top to eliminate dangerous chemicals that threaten our families’ health. At the same time, far too many are lagging behind, failing to meet the rising consumer demand for healthy products. This holiday season, retailers should give us the gift of a toxic-free future.”

Apple, Wal-Mart Stores, CVS Health, Ikea, Whole Foods Market, and Target received the highest grades, scoring a B+ or above. These companies are setting the pace for the entire retail sector by making meaningful progress toward safer chemicals in products. Meanwhile the report reveals that some retailers like Amazon, Walgreens, and Staples are developing chemicals policies. Walgreens and Staples plan to launch their chemicals policies in 2018.

However, 70% of the retailers evaluated remain serious laggards, earning D’s and F’s, for failing to publicly announce basic safer chemical policies to ensure the chemical safety of their products and supply chain. Nine retailers received a failing grade of “F”: Ace Hardware, grocery chain owner Ahold Delhaize, Dollar General, Kohl’s, Office Depot, Sally Beauty, TJX, Toys “R” Us / Babies “R” Us, and Trader Joe’s. All of these, except for Toys “R” Us / Babies “R” Us, received 0 out of 135 possible points.

The report also found that, over the past three years, at least a dozen retailers achieved significant reductions or elimination of dangerous chemicals in the products they carry (predominantly private brand), far ahead of any government-imposed restrictions. Unfortunately, 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.

To evaluate retailers’ policies, the Mind the Store campaign, the Getting Ready for Baby campaign, and the Campaign for Healthier Solutions collected and reviewed publicly available information about corporate safer chemicals programs, and shared draft findings with retailers to provide them an opportunity to review the conclusions, disclose additional information, and make new public commitments towards safer chemicals.



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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.