5 Things Companies Can Do to Ensure Safer Products in the Marketplace

Tens of thousands of chemicals are used to make consumer products, with more entering the marketplace each year. Many chemicals are now detected routinely in indoor air, food, drinking water, house dust – and our bodies. Research has linked certain chemicals to negative health impacts ranging from cancer to abnormal development of our reproductive systems, while most chemicals lack adequate health and safety data entirely. Too often harmful substances like lead, asbestos and toxic flame retardants persist in the market – and environment – for years before action is taken. We need a new marketplace paradigm. We need companies, from chemical makers to consumer product manufacturers to retailers, to be leaders in fostering the healthy, sustainable world we all deserve.

Why companies should lead

Resiliency is the ability to successfully adapt to anything that can disrupt your system or way of life. It’s a concept that applies in the physical world and in the business world. Leading on safer chemicals improves a company’s ability to bear chemical regulations, product liability occurrences, product recalls, and other costly externalities typically not factored into the chemical selection process during product development. Resiliency helps a company mitigate costs and stay competitive.

To maintain market longevity, companies need to keep a pulse on consumer needs and regularly innovate to meet those needs. Today’s consumers want to know what’s in their products, and they want safer ingredients. Increased innovation and uptake of safer ingredients in new products can help companies meet consumer demand, stay relevant, and achieve competitive advantage.

What does leadership look like?

For 25 years, EDF has worked with corporate partners from McDonalds to AT&T to spread practices that are good for business and the environment. In working with companies like Walmart and the multitude of businesses that form its supply chain, we’ve discovered a basic blueprint for advancing safer chemicals in the marketplace. Our blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplace is defined by five key pillars of leadership.

Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

  1. Institutional Commitment – As with any business initiative, successful outcomes require strong commitment and support from leaders across the organization – from the C-suite to middle management. Solid commitment from company executives and management in key business divisions is the only way to ensure that staff will be afforded the steady support and resources they need to be successful. This should be manifested in a written corporate chemicals policy.  Learn more.
  1. Supply Chain Transparency – Before a manufacturer or retailer can flesh out its plan to introduce safer products, the company needs to understand the product's starting point. A product manufacturer needs to have a clear picture of the chemicals used to make its products, just as a retailer needs to know the chemicals contained in the products it sells. This information provides much needed clarity into the areas of greatest risk, the scope of future work and a means for measuring and monitoring progress. Learn more.
  1. Informed Consumers – Sharing ingredient information with consumers is a key aspect of leadership. It shows that a company embraces and executes on the philosophy that consumers have the right to know what’s in the products they buy. Additionally, consumer transparency fosters accountability within the company to make informed decisions about the ingredients and products they buy, sell and design to meet customer demands for increased product safety and sustainability. Learn more.
  1. Safer Chemicals Plan – To achieve industry leadership, a company must create and implement a Safer Chemicals Plan. This plan is the roadmap for bringing safer chemicals into products or stores and phasing out hazardous chemicals. It provides the structure for evaluating chemical safety with respect to workers, neighboring communities and consumers; prioritizing, managing and eliminating chemicals of concern; and evaluating, determining and introducing safer alternatives. The plan also provides a basis for communication with suppliers, customers and consumers. Learn more.
  1. Public Commitment – Effective communication of the company's policy, timelines and progress towards goals can garner support from the general public. Telling the story about the journey – and the pitfalls along the way – can be just as powerful as sharing success stories. Going public can make the journey easier: it can reinforce internal alignment on the goals and spur the innovation of safer chemicals needed to create higher quality products. Going public can also lead to useful partnerships or engagements with organizations, which can provide companies with additional expertise or best practices. Learn more.

Behind the Label: The Blueprint for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

The companies that adopt these five pillars of leadership for safer chemicals in the marketplace will revolutionize how business is done.  And in doing so, they will remain relevant, resilient, and ultimately ahead of the competition.

There is no right way to start building these pillars of leadership.  Achieving industry leadership on safer chemicals is an iterative process.  Insights gained while tackling one pillar can inform and improve action on another.  What is essential is to make a start, to begin building these pillars and striving towards leadership.

Are you ready?

McDonald’s New Super-Sized Deforestation Commitment: 4 Things You should Know

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Just in time for Earth Day, McDonald’s has released a new global deforestation commitment. While this policy is new, the company is no stranger to the issue. In fact, McDonald’s was one of the first companies to be confronted in the 1980s as consumers began to recognize the “Hamburger Connection” between beef production and tropical forests. In response, the company established its Amazon Policy, which prohibited the sourcing of beef from the Amazon. Seventeen years later, McDonald’s was instrumental in creating the Soy Moratorium, an industry-wide effort which has effectively halted soy expansion on native vegetation in the Amazon Biome. (Soy is a major source of feed for chickens and other livestock).

Now, following a wave of commitments from agricultural giants such as Cargill and ADM, the new global policy is a first-of-its-kind in the fast food sector and, if executed correctly, could stand as a shining example for other companies in the food business to follow. As one of the world’s most recognized brands, McDonald’s knows any commitment with such a large impact on the planet – tropical forests are one of the largest contributors to, and buffers against, climate change – will be heavily scrutinized. So, what do we need to know as we watch this journey unfold? To radically simplify, four things come to mind:

Read more

Behind the Label: the Blueprint for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label - the blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplaceIf you’re in the business of using chemicals to make consumer products – things like shampoo or baby lotions, spray cleaners or laundry soap – the last few years have likely been anything but dull. State legislatures have been passing laws restricting certain chemicals from products; consumers are demanding more transparency about product ingredients; and some of the nation’s biggest retailers, including Walmart and Target, have issued chemical policies of their own.

Having worked for years to reduce the public’s exposures to hazardous chemicals and drive incentives for safer innovations in chemistry, Environmental Defense Fund is encouraged to see the growing demand for ingredient transparency and chemical safety. But for companies impacted by these new policies, adjusting to new demands may be challenging. As a business strategy, waiting to respond to the next chemical of concern or the next regulatory action, as opposed to taking proactive steps to improve transparency and chemical safety, is an unsustainable means for addressing risk.

What if your company didn’t have to worry about the next retailer’s list of priority chemicals, the next set of state or federal policy changes or regulations, or the next chemical of concern du jour to light up social media outlets?

Let There Be No Doubt: We Can Cut Truck Emissions & Fuel Use Today

The can-do spirit of American automotive engineers has been on full display over the past few weeks, as truck manufacturers unveil innovation after innovation to boost the efficiency of heavy trucks that move companies' freight cross-country.

It is crystal clear that we possess— today— the know-how to dramatically cut fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks. Moreover, we can do this while saving consumers hundreds of dollars annually and giving trucking companies the high-quality, affordable equipment they require.

DTNA Super Truck HighSome of the recently-announced advances include:

All of these fuel-saving solutions are available today thanks to the acumen of engineers at these leading manufacturers. The first round of well-designed federal fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards are also driving innovations like these to the market.

Even so, the strides we are making today should only be the beginning.

Read more

Green Freight Math: How to Calculate Emissions for a Truck Move

When setting and monitoring several of the key environmental performance metrics for freight, you’ll need to know how to calculate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This may sound complicated, but it’s actually quite simple.

Fuels contain carbon, which is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when burned. If you know how much fuel you’ve used, you can determine most of your current GHG emissions.

You can derive fuel volume by looking at how much freight you transport, the distance that freight travels, and the specific mode of transport used. Each mode will have its own emissions factor, since some modes are more efficient than others.

Here's a simple formula for calculating greenhouse gas emissions from a truck move:

GHG Calculation

The distance and weight and/or volume information needed to calculate greenhouse gas emissions is most likely already captured in your transportation management software. Information on mode-specific emissions factors are generated by several sources, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A list of emission factors is included on page 10 and 11 of EDF’s Green Freight Handbook. Read more

Consumer Goods Companies: Stand Up For Strong Truck Standards

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(Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists)

Three billion gallons of fuel:  That is what consumer goods companies stand to save annually from strong heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

$11.5 million dollars: That is how much a large consumer goods company would save annually in 2030 from strong truck efficiency standards.

Consumer goods companies should be at the front of the pack calling for new, protective, and affordable fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our largest trucks — which will not only protect our air quality and the climate overall, but save companies costs involved in moving freight. Read more

The Top Three Freight Sustainability Metrics

Do your freight transportation metrics include measures for sustainability?

With freight accounting for 16 percent of corporate greenhouse gas emissions, establishing green freight practices is becoming a greater priority for large shippers.

GF-Handbook-CoverTo learn more about how to establish freight sustainability metrics, check out Chapter 2 in EDF’s Green Freight Handbook – a practical guide to the strategies companies are using to reduce their freight operations’ impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions.

Establishing baseline metrics is the logical starting point for your green freight efforts. Freight sustainability metrics provide clarity, and keep transportation teams focused on the goal of achieving emissions reductions that are measurable, and therefore meaningful.

Your baseline will include both broad corporate freight sustainability metrics and more specific freight efficiency metrics.

At a corporate level, the three most popular metrics to gauge freight sustainability , are:

  1. Emissions per ton-mile – the average emissions associated with moving one ton of freight for one mile.
  2. Absolute freight emissions – the total greenhouse gas emissions generated by transporting freight.
  3. Total fuel consumption – the fuel used by direct freight operations and by third-partly logistics companies (3pl) and carriers in the transport of products.

Our Green Freight Handbook offers advice and formulas to determine all these numbers.

At a specific level, other freight efficiency metrics –such as average emissions per shipment, percentage of ton-miles by mode, and average miles traveled per shipment – link to specific strategies that, taken together, will ultimately drive the results you see in your corporate freight sustainability metrics.

In Emissions Reduction, Activity Doesn’t Always Equal Achievement

Real progress in freight sustainability can only be measured in numbers. That’s why starting with a baseline is so crucial. If your strategies don’t shift the numbers in a positive direction, they are clearly not the right strategies.

Read more

Consumers Get Their Say in Supporting Sustainable Products

Like teenagers, all ground-breaking products or ideas go through an awkward adolescent phase.  And, like teenagers, the only way products or ideas can move past the clumsy stage and blossom into a sought after, form-meets-function icon is through experience.  Meaning, real consumers have to put them through their paces: does this work? How could it work better? Revise, improve, re-test, repeat… that’s how you make something truly effective; truly great.

Sustainability-Shop bug_115x115

All this is by way of acknowledging a group of sustainable-minded collaborators on the coming-out party this week for Walmart’s “Sustainability Leaders Shop”, an online shopping portal that “will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a special category”.  It is, literally, the very first time a quantifiable, science-based index of various products’ sustainable provenance is being placed in the hands of consumers at the scale that only Walmart can provide. Read more

To Drive Down CO2 Emissions, Focus on Freight

Did you know that, as the energy demand for passenger vehicles declines steadily over the next 25 years, the fuel demand for commercial transportation is predicted to increase 40 percent over current levels?

That’s a difference of well over 10 million oil-equivalent barrels per day.

Most of that demand will come from heavy-duty trucks, which account for 57 percent of all logistics-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 16 percent of total corporate GHGs.

Freight-share-GHGs

As a society, our appetite for goods of all kinds—food, electronics, apparel, housewares – is growing. As the population grows, demand grows, and so does the number of trucks on the road. Read more

The Green Freight Journey: Raise the Bar

The Green Freight Journey is a five-step framework for freight optimization projects. In this blog series, EDF is taking a brief look at each step of the Journey.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life’s a journey, not the destination.” Your Green Freight efforts are no exception.

The Green Freight Journey is about setting long-term goals and continuously learning.  Each time you reach a “destination,” remember to celebrate your success and share your learnings broadly within your organization and network.

Once you’ve acknowledged your success, challenge your department to take on new and more complex projects. As emissions from global goods movement continue to increase, the changes you make will make a difference and influence others to do the same.

To learn more about the Green Freight Journey, watch our recorded webinar, where we go into more detail about the Green Freight Journey framework, review real-world case examples and highlight tools EDF is making available to help companies progress on their journey.

During the webinar, participants will:

  • Be introduced to the steps of a Green Freight Journey and receive tips for success on each;
  • Hear real-world examples of companies that have cut emissions and costs by optimizing freight moves;
  • Review existing tools, including a green freight benchmarking survey and the EDF Green Freight Handbook; and
  • Learn how an EDF Climate Corps fellow helped Ocean Spray Cranberries identify new green freight opportunities

Steps on the Green Freight Journey:

Be a Green Freight Superhero

Also, watch our EDF Supply Chain Heroes video to learn how logistics managers can channel their "superpowers" to drive their companies' sustainability efforts. The choices they make, such as moving cargo via rail or participating in a truckload consolidation network, have the power to slash costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Become a green freight superhero at your organization today!