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:
- They are focusing on 10-ish chemicals. (A press release from Safer Chemicals: Healthy Families says “approximately ten”, an article in the Huffington Post says “about ten,” and a USA Today article says “nearly ten.”)
- 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.