New Walmart ‘Sustainable Chemistry’ plan applies to US only

Last week Walmart announced a new policy on ‘sustainable chemistry’ in consumable products. While GallonDaily usually holds comments until plans are actually implemented, because so many do not get fully implemented, this one has the promise of being such a game changer that we thought it worthy of mention upfront.

Our comments follow, but here is what Walmart announced:

  • Walmart will work with suppliers on continuous performance improvement on The Sustainability Index to address chemical disclosure, risk assessment and hazard avoidance.
  • Beginning in January 2015, Walmart will require suppliers to provide online public ingredient disclosure for items sold at Walmart.
  • Walmart has prioritized a list of approximately ten chemical ingredients, as its initial list of high priority chemicals, for continuous reduction, restriction, and elimination, using informed substitution principles, and will regularly review if additional chemicals should be prioritized. Priority Chemicals will be shared with suppliers.
  • Walmart will begin to label private brand cleaning products in accordance with the U.S. EPA’s Design for the Environment Safer Product Labeling program, to the extent possible, and will continue to assess the applicability of DfE as it expands to broader product areas.

There is more in the announcement, available at http://az204679.vo.msecnd.net/media/documents/wmt-chemical-policy_130234693942816792.pdf , but the additional commitments are more of a timing and administrative nature.  A broader review by Walmart of its Sustainability Index program is available at http://news.walmart.com/news-archive/2013/09/12/walmart-highlights-progress-on-the-sustainability-index

The ‘Sustainability Index could be a real game changer on the matter of environmentally harmful ingredients in consumer products but the announcement has what GallonDaily considers some flaws:

  • It only applies to Walmart’s US business. Why Walmart considers that US consumers need or want ‘sustainable chemistry’  ahead of Walmart customers in Canada and the rest of the world is very unclear.
  • Walmart has not announced the approximately ten chemical ingredients that are on its priority list for removal from its consumer products. How does one have approximately ten ingredients? Something is either going to be targeted for removal or it is not.  Identification of chemicals for removal from consumer product formulations is a significant challenge. We suspect that the Walmart announcement is approximate because they have not yet made decisions on which chemicals to target for reduction or removal.
  • Why do we have to wait until January 2015 to learn of the ingredients in Walmart products? They have wisely indicated that the information will be posted on a website, rather than being printed in a tiny font on the label. With a website, the information should be posted by January 2014.
  • Why is Canada left out of this apparently significant initiative?

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