Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg

Wal-Mart Steps Up Push to Shed Potentially Harmful Chemicals

  • The goal is to cut harmful substances by 10 percent by 2022
  • Retailer is also adding some fragrance allergens to its list

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expanding its program to clean up the products it sells, setting a 2022 target for reducing potentially harmful substances and widening the list of chemicals it wants to avoid.

The world’s largest retailer aims to reduce the chemicals in products such as household cleaners, cosmetics, skin care and infant items by 10 percent by then, according to a company statement Wednesday. It’s also added some fragrance allergens to its so-called priority list of substances it wants to remove from goods.

The new goal is the latest in the retailer’s efforts to respond to consumers seeking greener products and more information about what’s in them. Last year, Wal-Mart named eight high-priority chemicals it wants eliminated from the goods it sells, and it’s on schedule to have the chemicals listed on its broader priority list labeled online and on packaging next year.

“We’re trying to center around a broader approach that emphasizes three elements: building trust, delivering impact and really staying ahead of regulation,” said Zach Freeze, Wal-Mart’s senior director for strategic initiatives for sustainability.

Wal-Mart said it will promote two additional product-verification programs to help guide consumers. Freeze said the company still supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safer Choice program and wants to expand the number of products certified under it. Wal-Mart’s own dish soap -- which was launched earlier this year and attained Safer Choice certification -- is doing well, he said.

Last month, Wal-Mart also started participating in the Chemical Footprint Project, which helps companies track and eliminate dangerous substances. The program gives Wal-Mart a tool to make further reductions, Freeze said. So far, its suppliers have removed 96 percent of high-priority chemicals by volume weight from consumables products sold in U.S. stores.

Wal-Mart announced in 2013 that it would ask suppliers to find safer alternatives for ingredients in personal care, cleaning and beauty products. Some of its suppliers have recently announced their own initiatives. Unilever and Procter & Gamble Co. both said this year they’ll start labeling fragrance ingredients in their products, illuminating an area that’s long been opaque.

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