Making Strides on Companies’ Chemical Footprints

Behind the Label_FAs we’ve written here before, public commitment is one of the essential pillars of leadership on safer chemicals. When a company leads on public commitment, that means communicating not just its initial goal-setting, but its full safer chemicals journey, publicly and honestly.

That’s no small task. The rise of shareholder resolutions across a wide range of sectors shows that investors and purchaser communities are becoming increasingly interested in how companies manage chemicals and mitigate risk. With the release of its inaugural report, one organization is throwing a spotlight on companies that are not just making, but following through on, those commitments.

Ingredients for measuring your (chemical) footprint

Chemical Footprint Project logoThe Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) recognizes companies that have effectively demonstrated public commitment to improved chemicals management. A joint effort launched in June 2015 by Clean Production Action, Pure Strategies and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, the CFP was created as a simple way for investors and purchasers to assess these critical aspects of corporate value.

The CFP’s evaluation system was designed to be flexible and can be used for any business sector, from personal care products to toys. Using a twenty question survey, the CFP assesses companies’ performance in four areas:

  1. Chemicals management strategy (i.e. corporate chemicals policies),
  2. Chemical inventory (i.e. knowing the chemicals used in products, manufacturing processes and supply chains),
  3. Chemical footprint measurement (i.e. knowing the mass of chemicals of high concern in a company’s products and packaging, processes, and supply chain and tracking progress toward safer alternatives), and
  4. Public disclosure and verification.

A company’s performance is scored on a 100-point scale, with a bonus for verification – respondents receive up to 4 points for independent validation of reported data.

Breaking down CFP’s findings

Last week, the CFP released its inaugural report, with 24 companies from seven sectors participating. Though individual company scores are presented without identification, CFP’s initial report reveals many interesting themes:

  • Of the four key performance areas, participating companies scored highest on chemical inventory, followed by footprint measurement, management strategy, and lastly, disclosure & verification.
  • Colors-of-Chemistry-iStockCompany scores ranged from 12 to 89. The CFP revealed that companies receiving high scores have chemicals policies and integrate them into their business strategies, showing the importance of senior management engagement.
  • 90% of participating companies have corporate chemicals policies focused on removing chemicals of concern; however, only two-thirds of those companies have policies that explicitly address the use of safer alternatives.
  • Many companies do not publicly disclose information on their chemicals policies and management systems, even when they have active systems in place.

A potent new tool for measuring chemicals management

The CFP has the potential to become a useful barometer of progress towards safer chemicals in the same way that CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) have for tracking companies’ progress on other aspects of environmental sustainability, like greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. The CFP has already amassed signatories representing $2.3 trillion in asset management and $70 billion in purchasing power.

Participating in The Chemical Footprint Project is one way a company can share progress on chemical management and gain recognition along its path to leadership from employees, suppliers, consumers and/or health advocates. EDF is pleased to see the CFP make visible in a meaningful way – one that can be shared with investors – the importance of corporate chemical management as an indicator of a company’s long-term value.

Disclosure: Sarah Vogel, Vice President at Environmental Defense Fund, is on the Steering Committee of the Chemical Footprint Project.

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