BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart is asking its suppliers to eliminate eight controversial chemicals from their products in order to increase their safety and promote sustainability. The targeted substances were selected with the assistance of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and were limited in number to facilitate quick progress.
The chemicals singled out are: formaldehyde, triclosan, toluene, diethyl phthalate, nonylphenol exthoxylates, butylparabens, dibutyl phthalate and propylparaben. Several of the substances are widely used in cosmetics, fragrances and household products.
According to Walmart, they were selected because they contain “certain properties that can affect human health or the environment.” Formaldehyde, for example, is a carcinogen found in building materials, paints and even some cosmetics, while toluene is used in paint thinners, nail polish and fragrances.
The move by Walmart is a follow-up to a letter it sent to suppliers in February 2014 asking them to reduce certain substances in personal care, cleaning and beauty products. That letter in turn followed the 2013 publication of Walmart’s sustainable chemistry policy.
The policy, which was the product of several years work among Walmart, the EDF, suppliers and nonprofit advisors, made three broad commitments:
• To increase the transparency of product ingredients.
• To promote safer product formulations.
• To achieve the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice certification for Walmart’s private label products.
The policy, Walmart said, covers approximately 90,000 items made by 700 suppliers. Product categories affected include health and beauty aids, household chemicals, cosmetics and skin care, baby care, pet supplies, and paper goods, among others.
When Walmart issued its ninth annual Global Responsibility Report in April, it included for the first time information about the progress made in implementing its sustainable chemistry policy. The company declared that use of the eight priority chemicals had been reduced by 95% by volume weight in products it sold in the U.S. But the percentage of products that contained the priority chemicals had fallen only three percentage points to 16%, while the percentage of suppliers using them had increased slightly to 39%.
“Walmart has made major strides regarding the commitments set forth in its policy,” said the EDF in a blog. “Equally notable, it has set in place effective systems to measure and track progress over time — an ability that cannot be underestimated.”
Target Corp. has taken a different approach to the issue of product safety and sustainability. Last year it published a list of more than 1,000 substances it is encouraging vendors to eliminate, offering them incentives to do so.