Product Transparency Trends

Dec 31, 2018 5:11:30 PM


Doing good pays; more retailers created their own chemical priority lists; grassroots petitions worked; and 'single-use' has been identified as the WOTY. T


+ Positive Trends:

Corporate Responsibility makes Great Business Sense.

In January, a Harvard Study reported that "Green Buildings Provide Nearly $6 Billion in Benefits to Health and Climate". The study examined buildings over sixteen years across six countries. On average, for every dollar saved on energy costs by green buildings, another $0.77 was saved in health and climate benefits.

In October, the USGBC released a survey showing that employees working in LEED-certified green buildings are happier, healthier and more productive. 

And to round off the year, in December we were bombarded with articles affirming that doing good makes money. Are you following us on social media? If so, you'd see that lately we've been re-posting from a variety of sources about how the power of doing good impacts the bottom line. In the latest one, the headline couldn't be more blunt: Good corporate behavior boosts sales. Consumers vote with their dollars and are thirsty to understand what's in your products, and what you're doing to create healthier, safer choices.  


Everyone is Talking about Materials Health.

In February, Greenbiz hosted the first Supply Chain Transparency Summit, a year after announcing that Transparency is the fourth supply chain metric (after cost, quality, and on-time delivery). In April, ILFI sponsored a Human Health and Materials Summit within their unconference. In August, we learned about the Materials Health dangers we’re consuming. The American Academy of Pediatrics warned about chemical dangers in food (directly through food additives and indirectly from chemicals used on food processing equipment) and food storage products- just in time to fluster parents as they started to prep for their children’s school lunches.

Chemical Regulations for the Win.

We celebrated 10 Years of EU REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals)- the regulation that shifts the burden of proof onto industry. In July, the European chemical industry declared its' love for EU REACH. By adhering to its standards, European chemical companies find themselves to be more competitive in the global market, touting some of the safest option in the world with fewer barriers to trade.

In September, there was US bipartisan Congressional support for the US EPA to act faster to bring more of the country’s most hazardous industrial chemicals and substances under tighter regulation. In October, the US EPA released its Working Approach for Identifying Potential Candidate Chemicals for Prioritization under TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act). It identifies both a short- and longer-term approach for identifying potential chemicals for prioritization.

Retailers Take Action.

In April, another major retailer, REI, announced new sustainability standards; Rite Aid announced an expanded Restricted Substances List in September, bringing the number from 8 up to 69. Four years after announcing a chemical policy, Walgreens announced it was adopting it in November.  In December, 3M announced a formal requirement for all its new products to include sustainability value.

In April, we also saw an (ultimately successful) grassroots petition begin, asking Lowe’s to remove paint thinners containing methylene chloride. In later months, Walmart, Home Depot, Sherwin Williams and others followed suit.

Circular Economy concept goes mainstream.

Single-use” was chosen as the 2018 Word of the Year by the Collins Dictionary, signaling a global trend of the realization that some products are only meant to be used once before being discarded. It's a positive step towards a circular economy gaining momentum. 


- Needs Improvement:

Chose substances with the end in mind

In June we learned that despite good intention, the circular economy isn’t thriving yet. Insufficient sorting of plastics at end-of-life can lead to dangerous substances finding their way into recycled food storage containers. The circular economy only works when we use safer substances at the onset. It’s imperative to understand what’s in your products and use safer substances from the beginning; you don’t know how they may be used after their intended use.

US Regulations on chemicals.

In May, a coalition asked the EPA to stop the "Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science" rule as, counterintuitively, it would actually limit the use of scientific evidence in protecting human health and the environment. The EPA is still reviewing the more than 590,000 comments received.

Paying the Price

In November, Samsung, the world's largest ship maker, delivered an apology and promise of compensation to its workers who developed serious illnesses after working in its factories. Also, 3M has been named in several new lawsuits this year, related to its manufacture of PFAS. 3M had already been sued by individuals, towns, water districts and some states; in February, 3M paid $850M to settle a suit in Minnesota over natural resource damages. 


Despite the feeling that developing safer substances, updating chemical policies and demanding change is an uphill battle, it's heartening to reflect on the many of successes of 2018, and learn from past mistakes. By continuing to work together, we can make health and sustainability a necessity for products, the build environment and facilities. We're looking forward to continuing the positive changes in 2019. Are you ready to tackle your chemical management issues? Try Toxnot for Free

Please visit our LinkedIn page for additional information on the topics mentioned above or email Rachel Schohn


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