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Walmart to Help its Customers Save Money, Live Better— with Safer Chemicals

2014 March 13
Jim Jones


March 13, 2014
3:43 pm EDT

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Walmart will now help its customers save money and “live better” with safer chemicals through a recently released and ambitious plan to move toward safer, more sustainable chemistry in products. As the largest retailer in the world, the significance of this action can’t be overstated in its potential to rewrite the basic formulas by which consumer products are designed, manufactured, and marketed in the U.S.

By placing safer chemistry at the heart of their expectations and guidance to product suppliers, and by walking the talk by requiring manufacturer’s of its in-store brands to lead the way in safer formulation, Walmart has created a new manufacturing paradigm for consumer products, one that adds safer chemistry and ingredient transparency to the traditional elements of performance and cost.

I applaud Walmart for taking this monumental step, and for their leadership, commitment to sustainability and transparency, and their significant contribution to helping protect human and environmental health through safer chemicals and products. As they implement the three main components of their sustainability plan—transparency, advancing safer formulation of products, and Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program recognition for private in-store brands—product suppliers will call on the DfE Program for advice and guidance.

The new policy stipulates:

  • For Transparency, Walmart will require online ingredient disclosure at the product level. They also recommend the guidelines of the DfE Program and Consumer Specialty Product Association for meeting online ingredient disclosure expectations and urge manufacturers to go even further by, for example, including specific fragrance ingredients and known impurities. The deadline for online ingredient disclosure is January 2015.
  • For Advancing Safer Formulation of Products, Walmart calls on suppliers to select safer and more sustainable chemical ingredients using informed substitution principles. Walmart references a number of helpful resources, including the Safer Chemical Ingredient List (SCIL) and the Alternatives Assessment Methodology and Criteria of the EPA DfE Program.  It includes among its three basic measures the number of supplier products that carry the DfE Safer Product Label.  Walmart will begin to issue progress reports on safer formulation in January 2016.
  • For DfE Safer Product Labeling Program Certification for Private Brands, Walmart will have private brand products—like those sold as “Great Value” and “Equate” brands—go through the DfE review process and seek the DfE label. The company will measure the percentage of products that contain DfE-approved ingredients, which appear on the DfE Safer Chemical Ingredient List, and the number that earn the DfE label. Walmart will begin to publicly issue reports on these measures in January 2016.

EPA and our DfE Program are ready and willing to provide the technical expertise to help other suppliers, manufacturers and retailers move toward similar standards to advance safer product formulation and achieve DfE Safer Product Label recognition. This is a great day for sustainability, consumer health and environmental protection, and safer chemistry

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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