IMPACT ZONE: CHEMICAL INGREDIENTS

Chemicals are the building blocks of every manufactured product. A single product can be made with dozens of ingredients – both individual chemicals and complex chemical mixtures. By the time that product lands on a retailer’s shelf, it’s hard to know exactly what’s in there, and even harder to figure out whether it’s harmful to human health or the natural world. What’s clear is the need for transparency in the supply chain.

The Problem with Chemical Ingredients: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

A product manufacturer’s top priority is to make what customers want, and it uses a variety of chemical ingredients to do so. While the manufacturer knows most of the chemicals that go into its product, it may not know all of them. Of the ones it does know, it may not fully understand how safe (or unsafe) they are. On top of that, chemical by-products can form during the production process – adding yet another unknown. Manufacturers often hesitate to share what they do know with retailers or consumers for fear of losing their competitive edge.

It all adds up to an extreme lack of transparency and understanding when it comes to the safety of chemicals – and a lot of risk for every company involved. Consumers are becoming more sensitive to potential health impacts associated with chemicals in everyday products, and their concern plays out at the shelf, in the courtroom and in Washington. Companies that wait for new regulations before they start examining their products’ contents and phasing out hazardous chemicals will face increased risk – and lose face with their customers.


Following the Supply Chain – Super Satin Body Lotion

Chemicals travel a complicated route through the supply chain. A close look at the supply chain for Super Satin body lotion reveals how transparency gets lost along the way – and how everyone in the supply chain shares the resulting risks.

Secrets in the Supply ChainWhen unknown ingredients add up, so do potential risks.Known ingredientUnknown ingredienthidden dangerssupersatinRetailerIngredient SupplierChemical ProducerPersonal Care Products CompanyCustomer Health EffectsReduced SalesLitigationThe chemical producer makes the chemicals that are the building blocks of the lotion to come. Of any actor in the supply chain, this company likely has the most information about each chemical’s structure, properties and safety profile. The safety profiles, however, are often incomplete, and what the chemical producer knows and doesn’t know about the chemicals isn’t always passed along to its customers.chemical producerMany chemical producers sell their chemicals to an intermediate supplier, who creates specialized mixtures of chemicals to fit the specific requirements of the lotion manufacturer. The ingredient designed to make the lotion non-greasy, for example, might actually include one primary chemical joined with several others to enhance its benefits. But the names and safety profiles of those chemicals might not be passed along to the lotion’s maker.ingredient supplierHere, chemicals from different ingredient suppliers and producers are combined to create a lotion that feels, smells and performs like customers hope it will. The manufacturer may not know the identities of each individual chemical that comes in the mixtures from suppliers, or their full safety profiles. What it does know, it may prefer to keep private in the crowded and competitive market for personal care products.Personal CareProducts CompanyretailerBy the time Super Satin body lotion hits the shelf, the retailer may know little more about its chemical content than what’s printed on the label – and that’s usually not the whole story. When customers worry about the chemicals they’re putting on their skin, the retailer doesn’t have the answers they want.supersatinMany consumers are actively searching for healthier personal care products – and avoiding products made from hazardous-sounding ingredients. As they try to avoid health risks, the retailer and the lotion manufacturer risk reduced sales.reduced salesSome chemical ingredients have been scientifically linked to allergic reactions, disorders and diseases. If consumers suffer negative health effects due to the lotion, their trust in the manufacturer and the seller both will erode – as will sales. Costly product recalls and litigation could follow.customer health effectslitigationWith so many unknown ingredients, a hazardous chemical could slip into the lotion formula. If this chemical is discovered in the product – and it happens to be regulated by the government – the retailer could face costly litigation.

The Clear Solution to Risk: Be Transparent and Proactive

Here’s the silver lining: Retailers and consumer products companies can leverage their positions in the supply chain to improve the chemical makeup of their goods.

The first step is creating transparency at all levels of the supply chain. That’s not an easy goal, but if these powerful businesses send the right signal, ingredient suppliers and chemical producers will listen. Only after the “lever” companies gain a clearer picture of what goes into their products can they actually address problematic ingredients. Armed with more information, they can work with ingredient suppliers and chemical producers to develop safer ingredients that won’t compromise their products’ performance. Every link in the chain will be better prepared for the future with decreased risk and increased ability to meet demand. Consumers will be able to buy products that are safer and perform well.

Lever or Link, You’re Part of the Solution

The chemical supply chain holds hidden risks for everyone involved. That’s a good reason for everyone to take part in shedding light on the chemical content of consumer products. Click the tabs below to find out how you can help improve transparency and chemical safety, and then check out the successes Environmental Defense Fund and a variety of powerful businesses have already had.

Just the Facts

EDF works with some of the largest global retailers to send strong demand signals for safer products. Our work with Walmart led to a corporate chemicals policy that covers all formulated household and personal care products Walmart sells. It also opened the door to collaborations with fellow retailers and consumer products companies to identify innovation opportunities. By leveraging the power of businesses across the entire consumer product supply chain, EDF is on track to usher safer ingredients into the marketplace.

Your Impact

If you sell any kind of manufactured good, you’re part of the chemical supply chain. Your customers want to know what’s on their skin, in their children’s hands and in their food – and you’re in the best position to find answers for them, not to mention establish leadership in advancing safer chemicals. When you start phasing out hazardous chemicals, you’ll start building resiliency and lowering risk related to chemical regulations, product recalls and other high-cost externalities.

It’s time to use your leverage.

Resources

Leveraging powerful businesses across the chemical supply chain isn’t an untried theory. EDF has drawn up a blueprint for how those businesses can take the lead in setting and acting on goals for safer chemicals. Learn more about making the products you sell safer:

Five Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label: Who Is Promising What on Food Additives?

Behind the Label Case Studies: How Businesses See Opportunity in Safer Chemistry

EDF’s Rules for Online Disclosure

Take Action

  1. Get started with valuable insights from Behind the Label, EDF’s blueprint for building safer chemicals into your supply chain.
  2. In a written corporate chemicals policy, commit to increasing transparency up and down the supply chain and to sourcing products made with safer chemicals.
  3. Send the demand signal: Announce your policy to consumer product suppliers and work with them to make it a reality.
  4. Be transparent yourself – talk to your stakeholders and consumers about your goals for safer chemicals and the progress you make.
  5. Stay on top of the latest best practices by signing up for our Behind the Label and EDF Health

Just the Facts

EDF is working with leading personal care, cleaning and food products companies to drive safer ingredients into the marketplace by spurring innovation in specific supply chains. We also participate in industry-NGO forums such as The Sustainability Consortium and BizNGO.

Your Impact

You formulate the “secret sauce” that makes your product perform like it does, and you choose who to buy those ingredients from. That makes you a powerful lever: You can tell suppliers you want safer chemical ingredients, or you’ll take your business elsewhere. Working together with ingredient suppliers and chemical producers, you can tackle the issue of transparency and encourage innovative new developments that benefit the entire supply chain. For your business, that means more resiliency and less risk related to consumer mistrust, product recalls, liability occurrences and chemical regulations.

 Resources

Leveraging powerful businesses across the chemical supply chain isn’t an untried theory. EDF has discovered a blueprint for how those businesses can take the lead in setting and acting on goals for safer chemicals. Learn more about making the products you sell safer:

Five Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label: Who Is Promising What on Food Additives?

Behind the Label Case Studies: How Businesses See Opportunity in Safer Chemistry

EDF’s Rules for Online Disclosure

Take Action

  1. Get started with valuable insights from Behind the Label, EDF’s blueprint for building safer chemicals into your supply chain.
  2. Commit to increasing transparency up and down the supply chain, phasing out hazardous chemical ingredients from your products and sourcing safer ones.
  3. Write a corporate chemicals policy that attaches specific goals and timelines to your commitments.
  4. Send the demand signal: Announce your corporate chemicals policy to ingredient suppliers and chemical producers, and tell them how you’ll measure and communicate progress.
  5. Make your policy a reality: Work with ingredient suppliers and chemical producers to think outside the box. If safer chemical alternatives don’t exist, innovate together to develop new chemicals or designs.
  6. Be transparent yourself – talk to your stakeholders and consumers about your goals for safer chemicals and the progress you make.

Just the Facts

EDF is working with suppliers in the personal care, cleaning and food supply chains to drive safer ingredients into the marketplace by spurring innovation in targeted applications. We also participate in industry-NGO forums such as The Sustainability Consortium and BizNGO.

 Your Impact

Consumer products companies set the vision for how a product should look, feel and perform. You design and create the ingredients that make their vision possible. By sharing with consumer products companies the full list of ingredients they’ve purchased – and their safety profiles – your business will benefit on multiple fronts. You’ll be better prepared to meet your customers’ demands and get ahead of government regulation – avoiding the higher costs of compliance once the pressure’s on. You’ll also stand out as an innovative, socially conscious leader in your industry, with ingredients that are high quality when it comes to both performance and safety.

Resources

Companies across the chemical supply chain are already working with EDF to implement strategies for improving transparency and sourcing or developing safer chemicals. Learn more about what we’re doing and why safer chemicals are a smart choice for your company:

Five Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label Case Studies: How Businesses See Opportunity in Safer Chemistry

Commons Principles of Alternatives Assessment

OECD Substitution and Alternatives Assessment Toolbox

Take Action

  1. Get started with valuable insights from Behind the Label, EDF’s blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplace.
  2. Commit to innovating safer ingredients. Adopt green chemistry strategies, including alternatives assessment, to help you create ingredients that perform well without introducing harm.
  3. Commit to increasing transparency up and down the supply chain into the composition of ingredients and their full safety profiles.
  4. Create a plan for disclosing ingredient information to consumer products companies.
  5. Collaborate with your customers to determine how you can create safer ingredients that won’t compromise product performance.
  6. Contact EDF to see how you can join forces with other similar businesses to develop innovative new strategies for creating safer chemical ingredients.

Just the Facts

EDF is working with leading chemical producers to drive innovation of safer chemicals in targeted applications. We also participate in industry-NGO forums such as The Sustainability Consortium and BizNGO.

Your Impact

You design and create the chemicals that make everything possible – the basis of manufactured goods. Your safer chemical innovations provide solutions that can transform the marketplace. By joining consumer products companies in a commitment to safer chemicals, your business will benefit on multiple fronts. You’ll be better prepared to meet your customers’ demands and get ahead of government regulation – avoiding the higher costs of compliance once the pressure’s on. You’ll also stand out as an innovative, socially conscious leader in your industry – showing that your chemicals are high quality when it comes to both performance and safety.

Resources

Companies across the chemical supply chain are already working with EDF to implement strategies for improving transparency and sourcing or developing safer chemicals. Learn more about what we’re doing and why safer chemicals are a smart choice for your company:

Five Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label Case Studies: How Businesses See Opportunity in Safer Chemistry

Commons Principles of Alternatives Assessment

OECD Substitution and Alternatives Assessment Toolbox

 

Take Action

  1. Get started with valuable insights from Behind the Label, EDF’s blueprint for safer chemicals in the marketplace.
  2. Commit to innovating safer chemicals. Adopt green chemistry strategies, including alternatives assessment, to help you create chemicals that perform well without introducing harm.
  3. Plug the gaps in chemical safety profiles by completing comprehensive hazard and exposure characterization of chemicals.
  4. Commit to increasing transparency through the supply chain. Create a plan for disclosing chemical information – identities and safety profiles – to consumer products companies or to the ingredient suppliers that purchase from you.
  5. Collaborate with ingredient suppliers and consumer products companies to determine how you can develop safer chemicals that won’t compromise product performance.
  6. Contact EDF to see how you can join forces with other similar businesses to develop safer and innovative chemicals.

Just the Facts

Consumers, just like powerful businesses, have leverage across the supply chain. When consumers demand safer products with their wallets, suppliers and retailers listen.

 Your Impact

You try to eat healthy. You exercise. You try to protect your family from allergens and toxins – but you know you can’t control everything they come into contact with. Hazardous chemicals are everywhere – sometimes, they’re even in products you wouldn’t expect.

Now it’s time to take the next step and make a difference for your family and families all over the world: Help EDF shed light on the hidden dangers in the chemical supply chain. We’re working with businesses that can influence how products are actually made, making products safer long before they reach you. If those companies do their part, and you do yours, think about how much better off we’ll all be! EDF can’t do our part, though, without your support.

Resources

For more than two decades, EDF has been showing businesses that sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand. Now that we’re focusing our efforts on big retailers and consumer products companies, every person in America stands to benefit. How? You won’t have to choose between safer products and affordable ones. Our vision is for sustainability – and safety – to be baked into every product on store shelves. Having transparency into the chemical makeup of products is a very important first step. Here are some examples of what leadership looks like:

A Blueprint for Getting Safer Chemicals to Market, Sooner

Five Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace

Behind the Label: Who Is Promising What on Food Additives?

EDF’s Rules for Online Disclosure

Take Action

  1. Check out EDF’s website and learn how we’re making a difference in the way companies in the chemical supply chain do business.
  2. Become a partner in our work! You may not be a big retailer or a chemist, but there are a lot of ways you can support EDF and help make products safer for people and nature.
  3. Tell consumer products companies that you want more transparency in their supply chains – and safer products on the shelves.
  4. Stay on top of EDF’s work with leading brands. Want to do more? Become an EDF Ambassador.