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

Environmental Defense Fund is working with business to remove chemicals of concern from the products we use every day.

Consumer health is an important but under-addressed issue when it comes to corporate sustainability. The products we buy contain tens of thousands of chemicals, with more entering the marketplace each year. By the time these products reach consumers, it’s difficult to know exactly what chemicals are in them and how they will affect us. In addition, many chemicals from products are now routinely detected in indoor air, food, drinking water, house dust and – most disturbingly – our bodies.

A growing segment of consumers see health and environmental sustainability as integrally connected. In 2014, 83% of consumers bought sustainable products; health was one of their top three reasons. In 2015, 25% of millennials said they were motivated to buy environmentally friendly products because of the health benefits.

"Health is joining environment as a major sustainability issue and therefore a major issue for businesses that want to prosper in the future,"
–Nancy Turett, Global President, Health, Edelman

We need a new paradigm, but not one that relies solely on improved government oversight. We need companies – from chemical manufacturers to retailers – to revolutionize how business is done.

Behind the Label - the blueprint for safer products in the marketplace

EDF’s Behind the Label initiative offers resources that make it easier for your company to lead on safer chemicals.

In our 25 years of partnering with business, we have proven that working with companies to adopt science-based safer chemical policies – that anticipate rather than react to consumer demands and regulatory changes -are a big part of the solution. With Behind the Label, we’re working to support and empower businesses by:

  • Sharing insights on how today’s business leaders are improving chemicals management
  • Sharing tools for best-in-class safer chemical policies and practices your company can use, and
  • Recommending employee engagement and business procedures that can help every company lead on safer chemicals.

For companies just beginning their safer chemicals journey, Behind the Label provides a basic blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplace with our 5 Pillars for Industry Leadership.

Businesses Are Leading the Way

Many companies — including Target, CVS and Trader Joe’s — have already begun to understand the importance of incorporating consumer health in their corporate sustainability plans. However, there is still work to be done. Companies that take the lead in establishing strategies for improved consumer health stand to benefit in many ways, including:

  • Reducing costs and minimizing risks in the long-term by anticipating consumer demands and regulatory changes rather than reacting to them
  • Achieving a competitive advantage by building trust with consumers that want safer products, and
  • Building a positive reputation as a company that is forward-thinking, innovative, and cares about its customers

How EDF Helps Businesses

We’re calling on companies across the retail supply chain to make safer chemical practices the new “business as usual,” to revolutionize how business is done and lead the way in chemical safety. EDF is sharing the learnings we have gathered working on sustainable chemistry with Walmart and other businesses involved in the consumer goods supply chain, to inform how your company can take necessary steps toward safer chemicals.

Walmart shopperBusiness Momentum for Safer Products

In 2013, Walmart released its sustainable chemistry policy for consumable products, targeting chemicals of high concern for reduction. In 2016, Walmart announced it had achieved a 95% weight reduction of these chemicals. Walmart’s sustainable chemistry policy is working because it hits on every one of EDF's five pillars of leadership for safer chemicals in the marketplace.