New Report Reveals Top Retailers Making Major Chemical Safety Advances
buybuy BABY and Parent Company Bed Bath & Beyond One of the Most Improved in 2019
As Leading Retailers Embrace Chemical Safety,
NYS Can Accelerate Progress by Enacting the Child Safe Products Act
(November 19, 2019)ALBANY, NY -- A new report reveals that many of North America’s largest retail companies are embracing chemical safety policies to help protect consumers from toxic chemicals in products. In the largest-ever analysis of its kind, 63% of evaluated companies improved over the past year alone.
The fourth annual Who’s Minding the Store? A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals evaluated and graded the chemical policies and practices of 43 retail chains with more than 190,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada, as part of Safer Chemicals Healthy Families’ Mind the Store campaign.
The only major retailer focused on baby products, buybuy BABY, and its parent company Bed Bath and Beyond, was one of the most improved, raising their score this year from a D+ to a C+, through new documented policies to restrict harmful chemicals in padded products like furniture and toys and personal care products for babies.
This corporate progress comes as the Trump Administration weakens or delays action on hazardous chemicals that can cause cancer, reproductive harm, and other serious illnesses, which also requires state government action to overcome.
“We applaud the progress leading retailers are making to protect people – especially children – from harmful chemicals. We can accelerate this progress through state-level action like New York’s Child Safe Products Act, to reveal hidden harmful chemicals and eliminate the worst of them in items meant for kids,” said Kathy Curtis, Executive Director of Clean and Healthy New York. Passed with strong bipartisan support in April 2019 as part of a first-ever bicameral Earth Day legislative package, the Child Safe Products Act awaits Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
"It's heartening to see the marked improvement Bed Bath and Beyond and its subsidiary buybuy BABY have made to reduce harmful chemicals in baby products in this year's Retailer Report Card. Increasing their grade from a D+ to a C+ is a great step - and parents will look forward to seeing this trend toward safer products continue in 2020. With Governor Cuomo’s signature, New York can lead the way in this effort," said Bobbi Wilding, Director of the Getting Ready for Baby campaign.
“Our federal government has failed to act on hazardous chemicals that can cause cancer, reproductive harm, and other serious illnesses,” explains report co-author Mike Schade, Mind the Store campaign director for Safer Chemicals Healthy Families. “In light of this growing regulatory void, major retailers are stepping up to safeguard our health. This is helping to bring healthier products into the hands of consumers across North America and drive the development of safer chemicals and green chemistry solutions.”
For the first time ever, major retail grocers and restaurants are focused on eliminating classes of toxic chemicals, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), ortho-phthalates and bisphenols from food packaging materials, which have been found to be a source of exposure to harmful contaminants. These actions respond to growing consumer concern about food safety and toxic chemicals.
“A growing body of scientific evidence has shown health hazards from exposure to chemicals such as phthalates, PFAS, and flame retardants. Exposure to phthalates during pregnancy is of particular concern. The fact that so many companies have improved their chemical policies over the last year is thus inspiring and hopefully will be a strong impetus for others to act,” said Dr. Robin M. Whyatt, Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University.
The study also found dramatic improvement in retailer chemical action between 2016 to 2019, with the average grade moving from D+ to B- (for the eleven retailers evaluated since 2016).
The eleven retailers who have been graded in every year’s report card dramatically improved their average grade from a D+ in 2016, the first year of the report card, to a B- this year. Most of these companies have made substantive, measurable progress toward chemical safety improvements over the past four years. The average grade earned by all forty-three retailers evaluated was a C-. This is a gain from last year’s D+ average, but also reveals room for improvement.
For the second year in a row, four retailers lead the pack by receiving the highest grades for their work to protect customers from toxic products and packaging: Apple (A+), Target (A), Walmart (A) and IKEA (A-).
The most improved companies are Ahold Delhaize, Bed Bath & Beyond, Dollar General, Lowe’s, Panera Bread, Sephora, and Staples. The report reveals for the first time Dollar General has launched a new safer chemicals policy banning eight toxic chemicals in private-label beauty, personal care, and household cleaning products over the next three years. In the two months leading up to the release of the report, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ahold Delhaize, and Staples also made notable, new chemical safety commitments, including adopting new policies restricting certain toxic chemicals such as PFAS harmful to human health and the environment.
Mike Belliveau, Executive Director of Environmental Health Strategy Center and report co-author said, “We applaud retail market leaders for protecting public health and the environment while our federal government refuses to act. Eliminating toxic chemicals - like PFAS and phthalates - from food packaging meets growing customer demand for greater food safety.”
About one-third (14 out of 43) of all retailers evaluated received an F grade for failing to adopt basic public policies to address toxics in their products and packaging. In 2018, about half of the cohort received F scores. Nine retailers failed to score a single point in 2019, and eight out of those nine failed to score one point over the past two years of inclusion in the analysis. The worst performing retail sector was restaurants, with an F grade average for six retailers.
For a full list of the evaluated companies and their detailed grades, analysis of trends, recommendations, and more, visit RetailerReportCard.com.
Clean and Healthy New York works for safer chemicals, a sustainable economy, and a healthier world. It co-leads the JustGreen Partnership, over 50 organizations working for environmental health and justice for New York’s people and communities, and leads the national Getting Ready for Baby campaign working to ensure all baby and children’s products are free of harmful chemicals.
Safer Chemicals Healthy Families leads a nationwide coalition of organizations and businesses working to safeguard American families from toxic chemicals. The group’s Mind the Store campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute them with safer alternatives.