Why businesses and state governments aren’t waiting for federal action on chemicals transparency

As a Trump Administration appointee tries to dismantle EPA’s credibility as a guardian of public health and the environment, other actors have been stepping up. We recently examined retailers leading the way on removing chemicals of concern from the marketplace – but there has also been significant activity from state governments and companies to increase transparency about the chemicals we are exposed to every day and to empower consumers to make informed decisions about their product purchases.

Regulatory steps in the right direction

Government activity has recently focused on cleaning products, for good reason as the contents of these products are typically the biggest mystery for consumers.

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Can You Taste That Smell? Maybe You Don’t Want To.

Recently, SC Johnson took the next step in product transparency, becoming the first major player in the consumer goods industry to disclose 100 percent of fragrance ingredients for a product line – in this case, its Glade® Fresh Citrus Blossoms collection. Consumers can now see what chemicals make up these home fragrances by reading product packaging or visiting SCJ’s WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com ingredient website. Over time, the company will expand the disclosure to the rest of its air fresheners and other products.

WhatsInSCJohnsonThis is meaningful. Industry-wide, major consumer goods companies list fragrances in aggregate on an ingredient list, whereas in actuality, those fragrances are composed of many individual chemicals. Consumers deserve greater transparency.

As SCJ Chairman and CEO Fisk Johnson noted, “… key to [making thoughtful ingredient choices] is continually challenging the status quo. By sharing the full ingredient list for this fragrance — all the way down to the component level — we’re going beyond the norm of even so-called ‘natural’ products.”

EDF has applauded SCJ’s efforts on fragrance disclosure in the past, and we encourage them to continue increasing transparency throughout its product line. Read more

A New Environmental Design Tool for Packaging

Yesterday the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) launched COMPASS, a new software tool that corporate packaging designers can use to assess the environmental impacts of packaging designs and inform decisions about packaging changes.

COMPASS grew out of an earlier software tool called MERGE that EDF developed through our partnerships with SC Johnson, Bristol Meyers Squibb and Aveda in 1996-2001. The goal of those partnerships was to create an easy-to-use software program that companies could use to evaluate the environmental profiles of different product and packaging designs. Bristol Meyers Squibb and Aveda each used MERGE to redesign packages to reduce environmental impact.

In 2006, the SPC, an industry working group of packaged goods companies and packaging suppliers, conducted a review of available environmental packaging design tools. Selecting MERGE as the most promising among them, SPC approached EDF about updating and redeveloping MERGE for use by a broader group of companies. We licensed MERGE to GreenBlue, the non-profit organization that convenes the SPC, for its use as the basis for COMPASS. Our Senior Scientist Dr. Richard Denison, who was the original developer of MERGE, served as a peer reviewer for COMPASS’ new methodology.

The new COMPASS tool is supported by updated datasets, includes additional packaging materials and environmental metrics, and includes specific packaging fabrication processes not included in the original version of MERGE. It should be a good resource for companies looking to understand and improve the environmental impacts of their packaging. A license will run you $750 ($500 if your company is an SPC member), but you can get a pretty good sense of the tool’s capabilities by using the free trial. Check it out and share your thoughts with the Innovation Exhange community!