Monday, September 16, 2013

Good News from Wal-Mart

I’m always glad when there’s good news to report. The current good news comes in the form of an announcement from retailer Wal-Mart. Last Thursday they announced that they would work toward requiring their suppliers to disclose and eventually phase out some chemicals of concern. Key components of the announcement include the following: 

  • The lack of specificity may come from the fact that Wal-Mart has declined at this point to disclose which chemicals it is targeting, preferring to wait until it has had time to communicate and collaborate with its suppliers.
  • The chemicals were said to be chosen based on the extent of their impact and the availability of alternatives.
  • Although they wouldn’t identify the chemicals, Wal-Mart did confirm that they all appear on the list of potentially problematic chemicals addressed in the Mind the Store campaign. (See this previous post for more info.
  • Beginning in January 2015, suppliers will be required to disclose ingredients in cleaners, personal care products, cosmetics and baby care items sold in Wal-Mart stores.
  • For many of its private label products, Wal-Mart will pursue the Environmental Protection Agency's Design for the Environment designation.

Reaction from environmental and public health leaders has been positive. The action has been called “substantive,” “significant,” and “meaningful.”  Some have pointed out that Wal-Mart is attempting to make sure that any chemicals that replace those removed are actually safer, which has not always been the case. Others note that Wal-Mart has indicated that this is just the beginning of their action on the chemical toxicity issue.

The problem of the toxicity of everyday chemicals is a huge one and won’t be solved overnight or by the actions of a single retailer. Still, every step forward should be celebrated. I pray that Wal-Mart’s announcement will spur its competitors to take similar steps.


MCS Gal said...

Just to have a company acknowledge that chemicals can be a problem is a huge step in the right direction.

DebraSY said...

Am checking in after being away for a while. Missed my opportunity to invite Sam Brownback and Claire McCaskill to the documentary screening. Darn.

This does look promising, but I have developed a big cynicism with regard to Walmart. I remember their made in the USA campaign probably 20 years ago (which they appear to be resurrecting) and how that was later revealed to be flim flam. I know that their record with their employees is far from benevolent. Sigh. But we can pray that they have been transformed and see the light. Prayer is good.

Martha McLaughlin said...

I understand your cynicism, Debra, and have to fight it myself. I'm determined, though, to celebrate everything that looks like a tiny step forward. Surely if enough of us care about the toxicity issue, are vocal about it, and vote with our wallets, corporate America will eventually get the message.

Martha McLaughlin said...

I believe in celebrating progress wherever we see it, but here's the link to a story on one thing Wal-Mart is still getting wrong. Recently some of their jewelry was tested and found to be high in lead.