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Walmart's Updated Policy Aims to Drive Toxic Chemicals Out of 90K Household Products

Image credit: EWG

This week, Walmart updated its sustainable chemistry policy, to eliminate toxic chemicals in thousands of consumable products, such as household cleaners, cosmetics and skincare items, and infant products. This policy includes new goals for the company to restrict over 2,700 harmful chemicals in household products by 2022, increase transparency of ingredients globally, and encourage suppliers to certify their products to credible third-party standards such as EPA Safer Choice. The updated policy applies to 90,000 products from 700 suppliers. 

Walmart is strengthening its sustainable chemistry policy for consumable products, reaffirming the retailer’s work to increase transparency, advance improved product formulations, and offer a larger sustainable product selection for customers.

As part of the policy expansion, Walmart aims to reduce its consumables chemical footprint for U.S. Walmart and Sam’s Club stores by 10 percent by 2022, becoming the first U.S. retailer to set a time-bound reduction goal. The goal applies to chemicals defined by the Walmart Priority Chemicals List in its revised commitment.

“We know our customers are interested in what goes into products and how they are made. It’s important for them, and we are advocating for them by encouraging innovation and transparency into that process,” said Zach Freeze, senior director of strategic initiatives for sustainability at Walmart. “Our strengthened commitment provides more clarity on our expectations for suppliers in working towards enhanced product formulations and setting concrete benchmarks to check progress along the way.”

Last month, Walmart became the first retailer to participate in the Chemical Footprint Project survey, and publicly reports its progress annually through the Global Responsibility Report and Sustainability Hub. To date, the retailer’s suppliers have removed 96 percent of high priority chemicals by volume weight from the consumables products sold in Walmart U.S. stores, up from 95 percent last year.

Walmart’s work in sustainable chemistry ladders up to its aspirational goal to sell products that sustain people and natural resources. This work was recently recognized by Fortune’s Change the World Ranking; the company was listed as number seven of 50 companies that are making social benefit part of their core business.

“Walmart has set an industry precedent for targeting and measuring reductions of chemicals of concern in its products,” said Boma Brown-West, senior manager at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “Walmart demonstrates the Five Pillars of Leadership on safer chemicals and encourages the pursuit of safer products across the supply chain.”

The updates to Walmart’s commitment move beyond Walmart’s measures already in place to promote transparency with clear ingredient labeling and to encourage informed substitution with chemicals of concern by reformulating products customers use in their everyday lives, while maintaining the affordability they expect.

“Like Walmart, we know that today’s consumers want more information to help them make informed choices,” said Jack McAneny, director of sustainability at Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G). “That’s why we’ve recently expanded our transparency commitment to include fragrance ingredients across our product portfolio.”

Other key updates to the Walmart sustainable chemistry commitment include:

  • Transparency: Although not a new requirement, Walmart still holds the expectation that suppliers will provide full ingredient disclosure of priority chemicals both online and now on product packages starting in 2018. Walmart looks to spur supplier transparency in cleaning products with new ingredient information on packaging, giving customers ready access to ingredient information, in many ways similar to what customers already see and expect for food, beauty and personal care products.
  • Enhanced Formulation: Walmart is adding two new regulatory lists to its priority chemicals list to better address fragrance allergens ingredients. In addition to its new chemical footprint reduction goal, Walmart will also ask suppliers to verify the purity of ingredients where contaminants of concern may exist.
  • More Sustainable Products: Walmart looks to increase its assortment of sustainably formulated products by encouraging use of two additional third party verification programs that lend credibility to green chemistry and safer substitutions. The Cradle to Cradle (silver level and above) and EWG Verified programs are being recognized as aligning with Walmart’s commitment along with EPA Safer Choice. Additionally, Walmart is expanding the scope of its original private brand expectations to now include national brands.

"We commend Walmart for updating its safer chemicals policy and setting new goals with a clear timeframe for suppliers to reduce the use of millions of pounds of toxic chemicals,” Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Mind the Store Campaign Director Mike Schade said in response to Walmart’s announcement. “The company continues to show impressive leadership in leveraging its influence to transform the marketplace. Walmart's new policy will increase transparency around chemicals in products and drive the elimination of dangerous chemicals in household cleaning, cosmetics, and infant products. This will send ripple effects throughout global supply chains. We hope Walmart's new policy will help inspire other major retailers to follow suit and mind the store."

Last November, the Mind the Store campaign released a report card evaluating the largest retailers’ safer chemicals programs. Walmart is the latest retailer to announce progress in restricting harmful chemicals. Since January, Best Buy, Costco, CVS Health and Target have all announced new initiatives to address harmful chemicals in products. 


Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]


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