Walmart

Walmart Stores, Inc., headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, is the world's biggest multinational retailer, with 2013 U.S. retail sales of over $466 billion—the highest in the country.[1] Walmart operates over 4,400 stores around the globe and in all 50 states, including Sam's Club warehouses and "Supercenters" that can be as large as 260,000 square feet—that's more than 4 football fields! Just imagine the challenge customers face trying to navigate through thousands of product choices—everything from health and beauty supplies, apparel, home furnishings, groceries, electronics, hardware and paint, to baby products and toys—that may contain harmful chemicals. Walmart has the power to relieve this burden from their customers, and lead the marketplace towards safer alternatives.

Canopy, Equate, Everstart, Faded Glory, George, Great Value, Hometrends, Mainstays, Marketside, No Boundaries, Ol' Roy, Ozark Trail, Parent's Choice, Prima Della, Puritan, Spring Valley, and White Stag. Sam's Club: Sam's Choice, Member's Mark, Artisan Fresh, Daily Chef, and Simply Right.

With great market power comes great responsibility.

We appreciate the efforts Walmart has already taken, for example the company's leadership in designing the GreenWERCS tool. We applaud Walmart's action to stop selling products containing polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) that accumulate in people's bodies and considered to be toxic to both humans and the environment,[2] and to stop selling baby bottles containing BPA. As the largest retailer in the world, Walmart has a unique ability to work with suppliers to ensure that chemicals that have been linked with health conditions including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes are not found in the products they sell.

In September of 2013, Walmart announced a new corporate policy on chemicals, due to mounting consumer pressure. By January 2015, Walmart’s cleaning products, cosmetics, baby and personal care product manufacturers will be required to disclose their ingredients to Walmart and its consumers. In addition, Walmart plans to remove about 10 toxic chemicals from these product sectors (as of November 2013, the ten chemicals have not been publicly disclosed). Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families identified this as an important first step, but more work needs to be done. Read Walmart’s chemical policy here.

We are calling on Walmart to work with their suppliers to reduce, eliminate, or safely substitute the Hazardous 100+ chemicals.


What is Walmart doing to get tough on toxics?

Since 2009, Walmart has been involved in designing a system called GreenWERCS to analyze the chemical composition of individual products and evaluate them based on potential impact on human health and the environment.[3,4,5] This system uses an algorithm to score products based on chemical safety criteria including: persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity (PBTs), as well as carcinogen, mutagen or reproductive toxicant (CMRs) characteristics. This appears to be a robust assessment tool, but it remains unclear how the information gathered translates into action. In a recent statement, Walmart acknowledged: "we do not have a formal policy on how GreenWERCS will be used."[6]

In addition, in 2009, Walmart partnered with the Sustainability Consortium to develop a reporting system and lifecycle analysis database in order to create product scorecards for consumers, and make (non-binding) sustainability recommendations to suppliers. While detailed information on their criteria is not available, and most of the evaluation categories focus on energy, recycling, and production ethics, there is one mention of "product/ingredient safety" in the initial sustainability questionnaire circulated to suppliers. Representatives also mentioned in response to recent questions by the Safe Cosmetics Campaign that they plan to incorporate cosmetic safety into the performance indicators currently under development.[7,8]

In fall 2005, Walmart set a goal to eliminate PVC from private brand packaging sold in the US by October 2007. This goal had not been achieved when their 2011 Sustainability Report was released. They said "While we continue to look for alternatives to PVC, we have been unable to find suitable replacements for PVC in packaging such as over-the-counter, tamper-evident bands, metal can sealants and meat wrapping, among others."[9]

In the wake of a series of product recalls in 2007, Walmart decided to ramp up their product testing protocol and heighten their safety standard on lead.[10,11,12]

California stores recently pulled a number of products containing Chlorinated Tris from their shelves, when threatened with a lawsuit for violating Prop 65 warning requirements. However, these products continue to be sold in other states.[13]

Walmart stopped selling products containing PBDEs in 2011.[14]

Walmart banned baby bottles containing BPA in 2008, but the chemical remains in many other products on their shelves—and in their receipts.[15]

Walmart announced in 2008 that toys made by its suppliers cannot have more than 0.1% phthalate content.[16]

"Getting Started" (3 out of 10 kisses)[17]

"One of our goals is to drive the development and sale of products that are better for the environment and for our health. To help reach this goal, we developed an internal team that identifies chemicals of concern and encourages suppliers to explore and bring to market products that contain alternatives to the chemicals we identify. By working closely with our suppliers, we are tackling this challenge and seeing progress."

- Walmart Global Sustainability Report, 2011

"[Our goal is to] provide to our customers affordable and effective products in which all chemicals are evaluated for potential health and environmental impacts delivered in the most efficient and effective way."

- Spokesperson, 2008

Sources:

[1] National Retailers Federation, 2012. "2012 Top 100 Retailers."

[2] EPA, 2013. "Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers (PBDEs) Action Plan Summary."

[3] EDF, 2009. "Peeking through the Chemical Curtain with GreenWERCS."

[4] Clean Production Action. "Green Screen for Safer Chemicals."

[5] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. "Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety."

[6] Ibid.

[7] Walmart. "Supplier Sustainability Assessment: 15 Questions for Suppliers."

[8] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. "Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety."

[9] Walmart. "2011 Global Responsibilty Report."

[10] New York Times, 2007. "Wal-Mart recalls lead-laced baby bibs from China."

[11] MSNBC, 2007. "Wal-Mart recalls animal toysets for lead: Retail giant discovered problem after it stepped up safety testing in Aug."

[12] Grist, 2008. "Wal-Mart tightens safety standards for toxics in toys."

[13] Center for Environmental Health, 2012. "Walmart Pulls Baby Products Tainted with Cancer-Causing Chemical, But Only in California."

[14] Washington Post, 2011. "Wal-Mart bypasses federal regulators to ban controversial flame retardant."

[15] Humes, Edward, 2011. Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution.

[16] CNN Money, 2008. "Wal-mart, Toys ‘R' Us unveil new safety rules."

[17] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. "Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety."