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Toxnot: Distilling the Complexity of Chemical Supply Chains

Image credit: zuldevil/Flickr

As we get ready to judge our semi-finalists next week in the 2018 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, we wanted to check in with last year’s competitors to learn about the impacts they continue to have on the business world. Here, we catch up with Toxnot.

We can’t go a day without reading or posting an article on supply chain transparency at every level, with chemicals being a particularly sticky area of focus. Toxnot is a software platform that advances chemical transparency in global supply chains, enabling companies to design and sell better products. Toxnot helps manufacturers and suppliers reduce costs and risks by streamlining safer product design and development.

We spoke with co-founder and CEO Pete Girard about how Toxnot continues to evolve along with the landscape of customer needs.

Who uses Toxnot? How does it work?

Pete Girard: Toxnot’s software-as-a-service helps manufacturers and suppliers reduce costs and risks by streamlining safer product design and development. The software has searchable chemicals hazard data, global supply chain data collection tools and product reporting automation. Users can compare hazards across chemicals, identify alternatives and view analytics of hazards across a product line. It is the first transparency software that is fully accessible to all business users regardless of company size, and the only source for free access to GreenScreen List Translator scores.

What led to the development of the software?



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PG: My background with sustainability at Timberland and then thinkstep has put me in the shoes of global manufacturers over my entire career. My cofounder’s experience leading the backend architecture of Hotmail allows him to bring truly enterprise-scale web application engineering to the space. He also brings a focus on software usability from his experience working on consumer Internet applications, which is awesome for the sustainability space. When we decided to do a startup together, we had three criteria we needed to meet: Does it serve a greater good? Are companies/people willing to pay for it? Do we as a team have a truly unique and durable competitive advantage? The way that Toxnot provides a scalable solution in the materials transparency space hits all three and we started the company in January 2016.

As the need for transparency in the chemical industry grows, so does the suite of tools available for organizations to improve in this area. Where does Toxnot fit into this landscape?

PG: There’s a rapid expansion of tools that help companies communicate transparency, but Toxnot is unique in that we focus on helping product manufacturers and designers actually do the work that goes into product transparency. We provide the toolset to collect very specific chemicals information from suppliers while protecting their IP. We give manufacturers access to hundreds of thousands of lines of regulatory and chemical hazard data distilled into view that they can use to understand where to focus and improve. And then we also provide the ability to easily take all this work and put it into industry-standard reporting so that it can be shared with the rest of the transparency and supply chain ecosystem.

How has the platform evolved? What new features were developed based on user feedback?

PG: All of our features are based on user feedback; if we didn’t work with some of the most innovative companies in this space, Toxnot wouldn’t be nearly as good.

Specifically, in the last year, we’ve made massive progress on our supply chain data collection toolset based on the feedback of not only our customers, but their suppliers. Our worldview is that giving users, including suppliers, control of their data builds trust and that trust allows our users to enact transparency in a way that works for their business and supply chain. We really look at enabling interactions and data flow in the supply chain and not mandating or enforcing it. I think that makes our offering unique in the space … plus, of course, all the really detailed features to handle full disclosure and IP protection. We also launched an upgraded analytics toolset so users can drill down to the chemical, product or product-line view to understand chemical property differences and compare alternatives.

How does Toxnot help drive sustainable innovation and help companies reinvent the way their products are manufactured, designed and used?

PG: We help companies take their best initiatives and make them 10 or 100 times bigger. We’re really about providing rapid scale to the innovators in Product Transparency and Sustainability. And because we provide a software solution, brands or suppliers that are newer to the space can ride on the coattails of that innovation since they can now access the same technology, rather than having it trapped in the homegrown systems of a few companies.

Shaw Industries, a leader in Cradle to Cradle Certified flooring solutions, has used Toxnot – how does Toxnot help companies that are already leading the way in the materials space further improve their products?

PG: Shaw is a great example of a leader that’s looking to continue scaling up its product sustainability programs. The customers who have been in this space for a while are also at the point where they are reporting against a number of largely overlapping standards. We help them manage their raw data and automate the reformatting of that data into all the various reporting formats. Even if companies aren’t adding new programs, we can help them streamline their current work significantly with respect to both cost and time.

In February, Toxnot partnered with the Int’l Living Future Institute to promote transparency in building materials – what other partnerships or initiatives are in the pipeline?

PG: Lots … But you’ll have to wait until late summer/early fall for some more announcements on external partnerships.

Something that’s new since Sustainable Brands in Detroit last year is we’ve made even more of our feature set available to users on free accounts. It’s now possible for a free user to begin collecting supply chain data. And really, it’s not about the software cost, it’s about allowing our users to rabidly iterate and figure out what will work before they spend months working through the IT purchasing process for a more traditional system that may not fit. I think this sort of flexibility is where all software is going and we’re really excited to bring it to the sustainability space.

What developments in the chemistry industry are you most excited about? Are there companies, organizations or initiatives that you think are really driving transparency and sustainability forward?

PG: When I look at how product transparency is cascading into the basic chemical manufacturers that supply every part of the economy, I see some really inspiring progress. It’s an understatement to say that big chemical companies don’t engender a lot of trust, and sometimes for good reason. But they are also the source of a lot of the green chemistry innovation that we need. The thermal imaging replacement for BPA inks recently developed by Dow is a great example of this.

What I see that’s really exciting is that for these chemistry companies, the reward to open up and market some of their innovations is finally getting to be a large enough economic opportunity that it’s starting to win the day in their disclosure discussions. This is a big change from five years ago when “no” was the uniform answer around chemical transparency. It’s still early days, but I think the direction is exciting. I’m excited to have Toxnot providing the infrastructure for this massive change in how supply chains communicate and are managed.


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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