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Target to Remove Harmful Chemicals from Products, Invest in Green Chemistry

Image credit: Target

Retail giant Target has announced its commitment to reducing harmful chemicals from its products and investing in green chemistry with the release of a new chemical strategy that covers its entire value chain, operations and products. The goal is to be transparent, proactive and innovative when it comes to managing chemicals and, where necessary, developing alternatives.

The new steps build on the existing Sustainable Product Index released by the company in 2014 and updated in 2015 and 2016. Safer Chemicals, Healthy FamiliesMind the Store campaign has challenged the company and other retailers to develop comprehensive policies to eliminate and substitute chemicals.

The company plans to implement the strategy in stages, with complete adoption by 2022. It is working with its vendors and supply chain partners to provide healthy products and to take the guesswork out of shopping for its customers.

“By working with suppliers to remove toxic chemicals like phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals and flame retardants from products, Target will bring safer products into the shopping carts of millions of consumers. A growing body of scientific evidence has linked even low levels of exposure to these chemicals to chronic diseases on the rise,” said Mike Schade, Mind the Store Campaign director.

The first phase, which is slated for completion by 2020, will encompass two goals: First, achieve transparency for all ingredients in categories such as fragrance, beauty and personal care, and also offer beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning products that are free of phthalates, propylparaben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde-donors and NPEs.

By 2022, the company will ensure textiles are perfluorinated chemical and flame retardant free. Target also plans to invest $5 million toward green chemistry innovation during this same period. The company admits that these goals are ambitious, but hope the steps will help Target become a leader and inspire other retailers to follow suit.

“We hope our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry,” said Jennifer Silberman, Chief Sustainability Officer at Target. “Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry.”

Target has pointed to working with business partners as essential in achieving its goals and ensuring that its products are sourced responsibly. Efforts to introduce safer chemical substitutions will also be crucial to its strategy.

“Part of knowing what’s in products is understanding where they come from and how they’re made,” said Irene Quarshie, VP for quality and compliance at 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.”

Some companies have already voiced their support for the initiative, including Seventh Generation, which stated that consumers will benefit from Target’s new progressive strategy.

“This announcement is a huge win for consumer transparency and we’re thrilled that Target is taking this step. 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,” said Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle.

Progress on these goals will be announced each year in Target’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report.


Libby MacCarthy is an Editorial Assistant at Sustainable Brands, based in Maine and France. She is a former urban planner specializing in sustainable cities, and an urban farming and film photography enthusiast. She holds a BA in Environment, Society and… [Read more about Libby MacCarthy]