Walmart announces chemical watch list

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Walmart chemical watch list: formaldehyde, phthalate, paraben

Related tags Retailing Walmart

This month the retailer asked suppliers to change product labeling and eventually reformulate to remove eight ingredients of concern. While the focus is on household goods for now, proponents of ‘clean beauty’ see it as a step in the right direction.  

The new effort will impact some 70 companies and nearly 90,000 SKUs, according to


The eight ingredients that Walmart is urging suppliers to eliminate are: formaldehyde, triclosan, toluene, diethyl phthalate, nonylphenol exthoxylates, butylparabens, dibutyl phthalate, and propylparaben.

Progress has already been made. Reportedly, 95% (by volume weight) of these chemicals have been done away with by Walmart suppliers. That is, among product sold in store and in the States.

Next up, the ingredients in question will need to be clearly listed on product labels by 2018. And Walmart is asking suppliers to find alternative ingredients so eventually these eight aren’t on the shelf at all.  


Consumers’ concern for safety and the environment is a big driver of these sorts of initiatives. And retailers of every size are responding more or less quickly, depending on the business model and scale of their enterprise.

Indie beauty retails shops like Shen Beauty in Brooklyn, New York, launched with transparency and clean beauty standards in place; as did Credo. While larger retailers like Whole Foods and Target built policies along the way that address consumer concerns.

“Wal-Mart’s naming specific chemicals strengthens investors’ efforts to move major retailers and manufacturers to safer chemicals, to reduce reputational and liability risk, and to reap financial benefits from growing consumer concern about chemical risks,”​ Richard Liroff, executive director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, tells


This latest move is in line with the company’s initiate to “reduce chemicals of concern,” as mentioned in the company’s 2016 Global Responsibility Report.

In that report, Walmart links to a blog post (on the company’s own site) called, The Makeup of Makeup and More: Improving Ingredient Transparency, which is penned by Jennifer McPartland and Alissa Sasso of the Environmental Defense Fund.

That item emphasizes the company’s move to list product ingredients, by INCI name, online on both retailer and brand sites. The information is meant to make consumer safety and choice more accessible and eventually benefit the beauty industry and planet as well.

“The benefits of ingredient disclosure may well extend far beyond our everyday shopping trips​,” write McPartland and Sasso. “Businesses that commit to consumers on ingredient disclosure provide valuable information that can ultimately help drive safer chemicals into the marketplace.”

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