For years now, Walmart has been on a mission to achieve safer products for its consumers. It's no surprise then that the company became a signatory of the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP), a project of Clean Production Action, which provides a tool for benchmarking companies as they select safer alternatives and reduce their use of chemicals of high concern. This year, the company took a major risk in becoming the first major retailer to join around two dozen of other companies that detailed the hazardous chemicals used in their products and supply chain.
What’s in it for Walmart?
The company believes that promoting transparency and product quality will benefit the general good as well as Walmart’s business. The major factor behind this strategic initiative is to promote consumer awareness. Giving information for customers to become more aware and concerned about how products are sourced and manufactured, and what the possible long-term risks are when it comes to ingredients will build long-term trust in Walmart’s brand — a key psychological component when it comes to product sales.
Walmart’s Offered Products
Aside from aiming to be more transparent, Walmart is also committed to increasing the number of private brand product offerings with the Safer Choice certification. The company reports that it has experienced challenges towards this goal; although the volume of high-priority chemicals is vastly lower, 15% of its private products has still at least one of these HPCs in their formula.
Suppliers that were unable to remove HPCs were asked to develop time-bound action plans to reduce, restrict and eliminate usage. By April last year, they had triumphantly removed 95% of the 10 highest priority chemicals targeted by their pioneering Sustainable Chemistry Policy launched in 2013.
But changing the product formula without having the intention of changing the product is very hard. There’s no guarantee that the consumers will continue to purchase the alternative. Procter & Gamble, for example, come up with ideas that reduce plastic usage with the same performance characteristics. As a result, they developed new ideas to innovate Hair Care sachets and Fabric Care packaging, reducing 16% of plastic usage and material transportation. Aside from removing identified harmful chemicals in product formulas, national brand suppliers like Procter & Gamble and Revlon were also tasked to list their product ingredients on their own websites, giving access to this information in multiple locations. Walmart is asking for its suppliers to list those substances on packaging by 2018.
Impact to Industry
Walmart’s participation in CFP could put pressure on various manufacturers to reformulate their products and find alternatives for HPCs. A retailer as major as this can pressure suppliers to update their products more quickly or else they will not be available on Walmart’s shelves.