A recent report from Who’s Minding the Store? A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals 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. Three graded companies are based in Massachusetts among the most improved are: 

  • Staples, which improved its score from a D+ in 2018 to C grade this year; 
  • Ahold Delhaize (owners of Stop & Shop and more), which boosted a failing grade in 2018 to a C- this year;
  • and TJX (TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Home Goods), which remained a laggard, earning an F for the 3rd year in a row.

The study also found dramatic improvement in retailer chemical action between 2016 and 2019, with the average grade moving from D+ to B- (for the eleven retailers evaluated since 2016). This consumer protection progress comes at a time when the Trump Administration has weakened or delayed action on hazardous chemicals that can cause cancer, reproductive harm, and other serious illnesses.

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. 

“I am proud to see two Massachusetts companies taking action to protect customers health,” said Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action. “We hope that Staples and Ahold Delhaize will continue to build on this progress and that TJX and other laggards will follow their lead.”

“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 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.

“The scientific evidence showing exposure to toxic chemicals in everyday products can harm human health can no longer be ignored,” said Kathryn Rodgers, Staff Scientist at the Silent Spring Institute. “Chemicals such as phthalates, PFAS, and flame retardants migrate out of products and make their way into people’s bodies, where they can cause a whole host of health problems including reproductive disorders and even cancer. It’s good that so many retailers are improving their chemical policies. Hopefully those that received an F grade will decide to take action to protect their customers as well.”  

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 43 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 (headquartered in Quincy, MA) and Staples (headquartered in Framingham, MA) along with Bed Bath & Beyond, Dollar General, Lowe’s, Panera Bread, and Sephora. 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, Ahold Delhaize, Staples, The Home Depot, Lowe’s and Dollar General made notable, new chemical safety commitments, including adopting new policies restricting certain toxic chemicals known to be toxic to human health and the environment.

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. In 2019, TJX (TJ Maxx/Marshalls/Home Goods/Sierra Trading Post) which is headquartered in Framingham, was one of ten retailers that failed to score a single point, even after it received significant consumer pressure to take action. 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.

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.

Since its founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking, and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration.

Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is a coalition of individuals and organizations in Massachusetts working to prevent harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals.

Post by  Clean Water Action, Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, and Safer Chemicals Healthy Families.