Latest Chemical Footprint Report Reveals Progress Made In Controlling Hazardous Chemicals

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Clean Production Action released the 5th Annual Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) Report analysing the results of the CFP 2020 survey. The survey evaluates and benchmarks participating companies on their progress to best practices in proactive chemicals management. The 33 companies participating in the 2020 survey came from seven industry sectors and ranged in size from small privately owned companies to large publicly traded multinational corporations. For the first time in five years of the CFP survey, seven companies scored over 80% of possible points. These front-runners were far more likely than other participants in the survey to:

  • Have senior management leadership and board level engagement in chemicals management – Support at the highest levels is critical to sustained attention to and progress in reducing chemical footprints in the face of competing corporate demands.
  • Publicly disclose their Restricted Substances List (RSL), manufacturing RSL (MRSL), and CFP 2020 survey responses and score.
  • Measure their chemical footprint using the CFP Chemicals of High Concern (CoHC) reference list of over 2200 chemicals -100% of the front-runners calculated their footprint by mass and many had no chemicals of high concern in their reported products.
  • Invest in safer alternatives to CoHCs-Front-runners explicitly included preferences for safer alternatives in their corporate policies and business strategy, and rewarded suppliers for using safer alternatives. These measures are essential to preventing the use of regrettable substitutes.

Investors, retailers, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) want to know where companies are on their chemicals management journey. CFP signatories include investors with over US$ 2 trillion in assets under management, and retailers and health care organisations with over US$ 800 billion in purchasing power. First Affirmative Financial Network (FAFN)-a pioneer in sustainable, responsible, and impact investing-“is a long time signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project because it provides investors with the necessary framework for companies and their investors to measure, manage, and reduce these chemical risks while enhancing quality of life for people and planet,” emphasized Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement at FAFN.

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“This past year’s Covid-19 pandemic has reminded us that things we cannot see can hurt us very badly and that the single most effective strategy for safeguarding health and preventing disease is to prevent exposure. These lessons underscore the importance of reducing exposures to hazardous chemicals in the economy,” explains Philip Landrigan, MD, pediatrician epidemiologist and Director of the Program Global Public Health and the Global Observatory on Pollution and Health at Boston College. “A large and growing body of evidence shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that toxic chemicals can cause a range of diseases that include cancer, diseases of the heart and lungs, and reproductive impairment. Prevention of these impacts is most effectively achieved by phasing out the use of toxic chemicals.”

The CFP survey questions and response options provide a holistic framework for how companies identify hazardous chemicals in products, packaging, manufacturing, and supply chains, and replace them with safer alternatives.

This year’s report also highlighted the Disclosure Leaders in the 2020 CFP survey. Beautycounter, Becton Dickinson and Co. (BD), GOJO Industries, Herman Miller, HP Inc., Humanscale, Naturepedic, Seventh Generation, and Walmart were the companies that agreed to publicly disclose their survey responses and score. “Senior management in these companies demonstrated their willingness to engage with stakeholders on the measures they are taking to know and reduce their chemical footprint,” highlighted Mark S. Rossi, PhD, Executive Director at Clean Production Action.

Clean Production Action is a non-profit organisation whose mission is to design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials, and environmentally preferable products. Its tools, GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals and Chemical Footprint Project, simplify the complexity of substituting chemicals of concern to human health and the environment with green chemistry solutions. It has collaborations with BizNGO and Investor Environmental Health Network, which provide effective platforms for practitioners and thought leaders to work together in advancing chemicals, materials, products, and systems that are healthy for people and the planet.

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The Chemical Footprint Project is the first-of-its-kind initiative to elevate “chemical footprinting” to the equivalent of carbon and water footprinting. Now companies can chart and report on their progress in reducing their use of chemicals of high concern (CoHCs).

Walmart’s Sustainable Chemistry Commitment
Walmart’s Sustainable Chemistry Commitment encourages its suppliers to incorporate Sustainable Chemistry principles into the development of their products. Walmart is both a signatory and a responder to the Chemical Footprint Project, becoming the first retailer to set a chemical footprint reduction goal and report progress through the 2017 CFP Survey.

Increasing chemical ingredient transparency
Since 2013, Walmart has encouraged full ingredient transparency, Toward that end, Walmart encourages all suppliers to provide full online public ingredient disclosure for formulated consumable items sold at Walmart US and Sam’s Club US stores. Consumables include products like household cleaners, cosmetics and skincare items, and infant products, among others. Walmart encourages suppliers to disclose ingredients online in a manner that is easily accessible from the supplier’s website and can be displayed at the product level.

Measuring our chemical footprint
As part of its commitment, in 2017, Walmart became the first US retailer to announce a time-bound chemical reduction goal: “By 2022, we aim to reduce our footprint of priority chemicals in formulated consumables by 10%, compared to our 2017 baseline of 215.9 million pounds.” In 2018, there were more than 125,000 formulated consumable items in scope sold by Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs in the US in the following categories: personal care, beauty, baby, pet, and household cleaning products.

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To track and disclose progress toward its reduction goals, Walmart asks suppliers to share their formulations for each in-scope Universal Product Code (UPC) with UL WERCSmart. In 2018, suppliers provided product formulations to UL WERCSmart for 85% of in-scope UPCs; 66% of total in-scope UPCs contained priority chemicals. UL WERCSmart aggregates the information and calculates Walmart’s chemical footprint.

In 2018, based on supplier reports collected through UL WERCSmart, Walmart’s priority chemical footprint (weight in pounds) increased by 1% over 2017, while the weight of priority chemicals as a proportion of total product formulation weight declined by five basis points.

Why chemical footprinting
Walmart’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Doug McMillon, said, “It’s time for businesses to take the lead working together and with government and NGOs on serious issues like workforce opportunity, racial equity, climate, and sustainable, responsible supply chains. Consumers are keeping score. They no longer look the other way, and we are committed to do right by our communities. Together, we have an opportunity to shape the future at a pivotal moment. And the biggest outcome for thinking and behaving this way is that it results in a better performing business that benefits all of our stakeholders.”

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