PhotoBack in November, we reported on which retailers were best-rated by an advocacy group for reducing harmful chemicals in their products. At the time, Walmart earned the highest rating for its “meaningful progress toward safer products.”

Target came in just behind at the number two spot, but a new initiative by the retailer may change that. In an announcement on its corporate website, the company has vowed to increase transparency of the chemicals used in its products, reduce the use of certain chemicals that may be dangerous to public health, and develop safer alternatives for dangerous chemicals.

“Our chemical strategy will be one of the most comprehensive in the U.S. retail industry, including all Target-owned and national brand products and operations, not just formulated products. It’s ambitious, but using our size, scale and expertise, we think we’ll be able to make significant progress,” said Jennifer Silberman, Target’s chief sustainability officer.

Clear goals

In the announcement, the company stated clear goals that it wishes to achieve for transparency, chemical management, and innovation. They include:

  • Achieving transparency in all ingredients by 2020, most notably in fragrance, beauty, baby care, personal care, and household cleaning products.
  • Removing phthalates, propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, and NPE’s from beauty, baby care, personal care, and household cleaning products by 2020.
  • Removing flame retardants that are potentially carcinogenic or pose other harm to consumers from textile products by 2022.
  • Investing $5 million in green chemistry innovation by 2022.

Company officials admit that these goals are ambitious, but they hope the steps will help Target become a leader and example for other retailers to follow.

“We hope our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry. Ultimately, we want to bring all stakeholders together to innovate and champion a consistent, industry-wide approach to greener chemistry,” said Silberman.

Forward-thinking policy

Target intends to start achieving its goals by working with business partners to ensure that its products are sourced responsibly. Efforts to introduce safer chemical substitutions will also be a vital part of its strategy.

“Part of knowing what’s in products is understanding where they come from and how they’re made. So we’ll build on our work in the responsible sourcing space to help us verify that supply chain processes are sustainable, as well as ethical and responsible, from beginning to end,” said Irene Quarshie, vice president of quality & compliance with Target Sourcing Services.

Some companies have already come out in support of the initiative. Seventh Generation -- a supplier of cleaning, paper, and personal care products – has stated that consumers will benefit from Target’s progressive strategy.

“This announcement is a huge win for consumer transparency and we’re thrilled that Target is taking this step. It’s a forward-thinking policy like this that will drive industry change, ensuring that the health of our planet and its people are never compromised for profit,” said Seventh Generation CEO John Replogle.

Progress on these goals will be announced each year in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report.


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