Costco steps up “effort to reduce potential chemical harm to humans and…environment”

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Costco steps up “effort to reduce potential chemical harm to humans and…environment”

Related tags Chemistry

The warehouse retailer announced an updated chemical management policy this month as well as a partnership with the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry that will help the company limit so-called chemicals of concern along the supply chain as well as in products offered for sale, including personal care.

More and more beauty and personal care retailers are setting guidelines for ingredients. The movement among large chain stores began with Whole Foods nearly 10 years ago. Now Target​, Walmart​, and CVS​ have chemical guidelines in place or in progress that restrict the ingredients that cosmetics and personal care makers can include in product formulations.

Policy particulars

The Costco chemical management policy update is really more of an announcement about the company’s next steps.

The retailer’s updated sustainability / environment page​ explains that “Costco will continue to provide guidance for preferred chemical choices by product category through collaboration with our supply chain.”​ And that the company encourages “our suppliers to understand which chemicals are used in their products in order to:

  • identify chemicals of concern (utilizing comprehensive testing programs)
  • remove or apply the process of informed substitution for any identified chemicals of concern
  • identify ways to change their manufacturing processes to reduce hazardous chemical use
  • review qualified third-party green certifications

For environmental and consumer advocacy groups, even this gesture is a welcome effort. The coalition known as Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families posted an item about Costco’s policy update on its site stating that “Costco’s announcement is really good news for its members who will benefit from safer chemicals in their shopping carts and homes. But it’s also a signal to the market that harmful chemicals need to go. Costco’s suppliers will have to examine their products and reduce their use of toxic chemicals.…We’ll look for future announcements from Costco on the specific chemicals and products the company is targeting for elimination, as well as specific goals for reductions.”

Green team 

To help coordinate the retailer’s new chemical management policy, Costco has teamed up with the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry. The BCGC is an interdisciplinary academic initiative from Berkeley University comprising chemistry, public health, engineering, natural resources, law, and business.

According to a blog post on the center’s site​, “BCGC will be studying and evaluating Costco’s current chemical assessment program and wider chemical policy planning. We will assist Costco in developing a strategic plan for restricting and assessing chemicals of concern within their global supply chain and guiding company procurement now and in the future.”

It’s early days for the BCBG – Costco partnership, and the center is just starting its work: “The intent of BCGC is to first perform a comprehensive review of relevant factors affecting chemicals management at Costco for three product areas: textiles, furniture, and personal care and household products,” ​explains the blog post. 

But strategic guidance is an eventual part of the deal. “This partnership will assist Costco in the continued development of our strategic plan for managing chemicals of concern within the Costco supply chain,” ​notes the retailer on its updated sustainability / environment page. “This unique and pioneering partnership with the UC Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry demonstrates our commitment to the well-being of our members.”

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