Amazon Playing Catch-Up In Push To Police Chemicals In Products

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Amazon Playing Catch-Up In Push To Police Chemicals In Products Inc. is developing a plan to regulate the chemicals used by suppliers, but it still lags Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and other retailers in the push for greener products.

That’s the assessment of Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families -- a Washington-based coalition that runs a program called Mind the Store. Though Amazon is now developing chemicals procedures, the e-commerce giant fared badly in Mind the Store’s ranking, which tracks how well companies reduce the toxic chemicals in the products they sell and disclose their presence.

As Amazon’s share of retail sales grows, its corporate stewardship is coming under greater scrutiny. That’s raised pressure to evaluate its products -- especially as rivals take a stand on the issue.


“Companies are seeing there’s a market advantage to demonstrating that they’re increasing the transparency of products and taking meaningful action to getting the worst of the worst chemicals out,” said Mike Schade, co-author of the report and Mind the Store’s campaign director.

For now, Amazon’s efforts to police the ingredients in its products are limited. It shuns certain “chemicals of concern” in some of its private-brand products, such as its Elements baby wipes, according to the report. Ty Rogers, a spokesman for the Seattle-based company, declined to comment.


Corporate Grades

Apple Inc. received an A grade, putting it in the top spot among 30 retailers ranked for their chemical-disclosure policies by the Mind the Store campaign. It was followed by Wal-Mart (A-), while CVS Health Corp., Ikea, Whole Foods and Target earned B-pluses. Amazon, meanwhile, got a D and a rank of 14th, still better than last year’s failing grade. Toys “R” Us Inc., Trader Joe’s and Dollar General Corp. were among the nine retailers with an F.

Wal-Mart and Target have introduced and expanded programs to cut the presence of certain chemicals. This year, Wal-Mart set a 2022 deadline for reducing potentially harmful substances. It also broadened the list of chemicals it seeks to avoid. As part of the push, the company started participating in the Chemical Footprint Project, which helps companies track and eliminate dangerous substances.

There is more to come, said Zach Freeze, the company’s senior director for sustainability.

“We know our customers are interested in what goes into products and how they are made,” Freeze said. “We will continue to work towards strengthening our sustainable chemistry commitment and setting concrete benchmarks to check progress along the way.”


Other retailers are also responding, Schade said.

“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of progress among the retailers we ranked last year,” Schade said in a phone interview. Seven retailers have added or expanded chemical policies in the past year, he said.

Work in Progress

Two-thirds of those surveyed, however, aren’t implementing such programs. Amazon doesn’t have a public safer chemicals policy, according to the report, but the company is “in the process of developing and evaluating a chemicals policy.”

The report scored companies on a 135-point scale that examined 14 metrics, including whether they got full ingredient disclosure from suppliers and have policies to cut the presence of so-called chemicals of high concern to minimal levels. Schade co-wrote the report with Mike Belliveau, executive director of the Environmental Health Strategy Center, with contributions from other groups.


The report commended Apple for requiring that suppliers provide safety assessments of materials swapped in to replace chemicals of concern. CVS eliminated substances such as parabens and phthalates from almost 600 private-label beauty and personal-care products, while Albertsons removed BPA from more than 80 percent of its own-brand canned foods. Sephora and other retailers, meanwhile, have developed or are developing lists of substances banned from their private-label products.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.

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