Corporate Policies and Case Studies
A Sampling of Corporate Safer Chemicals Policies
The main themes woven throughout these policies include precaution, innovation, going beyond compliance, and doing all these things while serving customer wants and needs. The policies excerpted below are from a mix of European and U.S. retailers and manufacturers, including Wal-Mart, Body Shop, SC Johnson, Boots, Dell, Nike, and H&M. (Note: Some of these excerpts were available on the Internet as of February 2008 but have since been superceded by related materials on corporate websites.)
Goal: “Provide to our customers affordable and effective products in which all chemicals are evaluated for potential health and environmental impacts delivered in the most efficient and effective way”
Note: This summary goal is backed up by a longer policy statement signaling that Wal-Mart will take precautionary action against toxicants that cause cancer, build up in the environment, and have other undesirable characteristics. Here’s an excerpt from that statement:
One of three main goals of our Business Sustainability efforts is to provide sustainable products to our customers. The value and benefit of sustainable products include the human and environmental health of the chemical ingredients in the products we use and in the products we offer to our customers. This requires a focused effort on the identification of problematic chemicals and a search for preferred alternatives. We have developed a series of principles that form the basis for the evaluation of individual products and their ingredients.
Embracing the Spirit of the Precautionary Principle
We agree with the spirit of the Precautionary Principle: when we suspect that an ingredient in a product or the product itself is capable of causing harm to human health and the environment, we will act to find better alternatives.
Demonstrating Leadership – Going Beyond Compliance with Legal Requirements
Compliance with existing laws and regulations by our suppliers remains a fundamental requirement. In most cases our principles will require actions beyond compliance with government regulations. The products we sell comply with all laws and regulations and are safe when used as directed. However, we also recognize that there is a spectrum of acceptability meaning that some ingredients are preferable to others, owing to their superior safety and environmental characteristics. As leaders in sustainability we are signaling a move beyond compliance towards ingredients with preferred characteristics. At Wal-Mart, we are engaged in an effort to identify chemicals of concern and encourage innovation towards more preferred chemicals that perform and meet consumer needs in a more sustainable way.
Chemicals Strategy August 2006
The Body Shop is committed to creating desirable, sustainable and safe products, which are inspired by nature. Our products are based on ingredients from natural sources wherever possible, but will contain synthetic chemicals where they are necessary for the quality, safety or efficacy of products and where no suitable natural alternatives exist. The Body Shop is careful to select chemicals that have a good safety and environmental record. We will also manage the use of chemicals in a responsible manner by applying the precautionary principle. We will continuously review and update our criteria and guidelines for the development of new products, and will implement action plans for the timely and realistic phase-out of relevant chemicals from our formulations. For example, in recent years we have made the decision to move away from using phthalates, even though these ingredients are legal and considered safe for use by our industry and its regulators.
We wish to be responsive to new developments and conduct regular reviews of our use of chemicals against the latest regulatory and environmental research from around the world, and engage with stakeholders and customers to help inform our strategy and action plans. We believe in open communication and communicate our position to our product suppliers, label our products in accordance with the highest standards and we will produce public annual updates on our position and progress. We do not believe in double standards. The Body Shop operates in 54 countries, and develops products and packaging to the same high standard regardless of country of sale. If we phase out or ban an ingredient, it will be phased out or banned from all The Body Shop® products in all markets.
Click here to view the updated 2008 version of this statement (PDF).
Known for Windex and other popular consumer brands, SCJ’s Greenlist program is a review process to systematically reduce the toxicity of their chemicals. They have described it as follows:
At the heart of our commitment to building tomorrow's legacy today is SC Johnson's Greenlist™, an effort that may well represent the single most important contribution our company can make in protecting the natural environment that sustains us all.
The manufacturing and packaging of our many products requires literally thousands of raw materials. Our goal is a significant annual increase in the use of those that are environmentally preferred. While our facilities around the world already meet or exceed government requirements, we plan to measure ourselves against a much higher internal standard.
Click here for current materials on SC Johnson's program.
Boots is one of the largest pharmaceutical retailers in the world. They merged with Alliance and then were taken private. Here’s their language:
At Boots we want our customers to have complete faith in everything we sell. And, since the vast majority of the products in our stores touch the skin or are taken internally, we believe that we have a special responsibility for ensuring that the chemicals in our product are safe, for both the user and the environment.
As the first UK retailer to publish a chemical strategy back in March 2003 we made a commitment to apply a ‘precautionary approach’ to the choice of chemicals in our products. That’s to say, we will stop using a chemical if we think there is a reason to believe it may be harmful, rather than waiting for definitive proof.
Dell's vision is to avoid the use of substances in its products that could seriously harm the environment or human health and to ensure that we act responsibly and with caution.
To act responsibly, Dell believes that if reasonable scientific grounds indicate a substance (or group of substances) could pose significant environmental or human health risks, even if the full extent of harm has not yet been definitively established, precautionary measures should be taken to avoid use of the substance(s) in products unless there is convincing evidence that the risks are small and are outweighed by the benefits. Dell considers these to be 'substances of concern.'
The two paragraphs above are extracted from a Dell web page that links to their full chemicals statement. See the website.
Nike’s “considered chemistry” program is part of a larger “considered design” program whose major goal is to reduce Nike’s environmental footprint. Nike's 2009 description of "considered design" can be found here.
Nike has used the following language, written more for environmental specialists than the general public, to describe their chemicals efforts:
Environmentally preferred chemistry
Our product sustainability efforts are an example of upstream focus: striving to eliminate or minimize toxins through healthier chemistry, tackling the issue at the source and using innovation rather than solely relying on compliance where the issue is manifested.
Linking product chemistry to the findings of our field-based environmental, safety and health (ESH) teams is designed to systematically reduce the use of toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process. In addition to the work that intersects with environment, safety and health, we are also evaluating chemicals and material platforms as a way to develop additional environmentally preferred materials. Our systematic evaluation is based on both defining the hazards of chemicals and evaluating the risk posed by those chemicals.
This process allows us to prioritize the chemicals for elimination or substitution. We will work closely with chemical suppliers as we evaluate our material platforms.
This prominent multi-national clothing retailer has adopted the following statement of principles that incorporates a precautionary approach to chemicals (provisions pertinent to chemicals are in italics):
H&M's environmental policy
Continuous improvement is characteristic of all H&M activities. This includes our environmental effort, which is conducted within the framework of our business operations. H&M's business concept is to give our customers unsurpassed value by offering fashion and quality at the best price. Our quality concept is based on ensuring that our customers are satisfied with our products and with H&M as a company.
To this end, we are committed to acting responsibly in our community. We also aim to co-operate with our suppliers on improving the social and environmental standards in the factories that manufacture H&M clothing, thereby contributing to sustainable development in these areas. To achieve this goal, H&M has adopted the following principles.
- always consider the health and safety of our employees. By adopting the precautionary principle, we will continuously update our restrictions against the use of environmentally and health hazardous chemicals in the production of our garments and other products.
- continuously update ourselves on environmental news and legislation. We will not be content to follow existing environmental legislation, but will in certain areas do more than the law requires.
- conduct our business in a manner that utilises natural resources as efficiently as possible.
- develop new and continuously improve existing environmental requirements concerning the purchase of products and services.
- train, inform and motivate our employees to participate and take responsibility, thereby making environmental work an integral part of H&M's daily routines.
Click here to view the source.