CONTENTS EdEvidence Newsletter

January 2008

Representative Corporate Safer Chemicals Policies

As a service to companies considering development of their own safer chemicals policies-a commitment to continual reduction and elimination of toxic chemicals in products to reduce costs, lower reputational risk, and avoid "toxic lockout" from the marketplace-IEHN has compiled a sampling of existing corporate safer chemicals policies.

The main themes woven through these policies, excerpted on the IEHN website with links to corporate websites, include precaution, innovation, going beyond compliance, and doing all these things while serving customer wants and needs. The excerpts are from a mix of U.K. and U.S. retailers and manufacturers, including such household names as Wal-Mart, Dell, and Nike in the United States and The Body Shop (now owned by L'Oreal) and Boots (now taken private by KKR) in Europe. These are but a small sub-set of the growing numbers of companies adopting such policies.

Wal-Mart, for example, has established a goal to provide its customers "affordable and effective products where all chemical ingredients are preferred for Mother, Child and the Environment delivered in the most efficient and effective way". This summary goal is backed up by a longer policy statement signaling that Wal-Mart will take precautionary action against toxicants that cause cancer, build up in the environment, and have other undesirable characteristics. Wal-Mart explicitly embraces a precautionary approach, stating that "when we suspect that an ingredient in a product or the product itself is capable of causing harm to human health and the environment, we will act to find better alternatives."

Dell's corporate policy echoes Wal-Mart's cautious approach: "To act responsibly, Dell believes that if reasonable scientific grounds indicate a substance (or group of substances) could pose significant environmental or human health risks, even if the full extent of harm has not yet been definitively established, precautionary measures should be taken to avoid use of the substance(s) in products unless there is convincing evidence that the risks are small and are outweighed by the benefits."