A blueprint for getting safer chemicals to market, sooner

Boma Brown-West

Shampoo. Nail polish. Sofas in the halls of Congress.

All have been the subject of recent stories about the hidden dangers to our health in products we buy and use.

Governments around the world are stepping up actions to better protect their citizens. Here in the United States, Congress is finally poised to strengthen the Environmental Protection Agency’s chemical safety authority.

But improved government oversight is only part of the solution. Companies along the retail supply chain must also make it their mission to create products that are safer for consumers.

To put it simply: We need companies to revolutionize how business is done. We need them to get Behind the Label.

We began our crusade for safer chemicals in the marketplace by partnering with the largest retailer in the world, Walmart, a few years back. It prompted the company to announce a new policy in September 2013 for chemicals in its household and personal care products that will transform the world’s largest retailer – and its vast supply chain.

But Walmart is, despite its size, only one piece of the global retail industry. We won’t get the revolution consumers deserve unless the majority of retailers and product manufacturers everywhere adopt safer chemicals policies and practices.

Scaling up an approach we know works

We knew that calls to action are important, but what companies need to successfully operationalize the philosophy of safer chemicals is guidance.

A new marketplace initiative by Environmental Defense Fund, Behind the Label, gives a basic blueprint for driving safer products to store shelves. It helps companies embed the safer chemicals philosophy into their businesses and gain competitive advantage in the marketplace. 

With this initiative we are sharing tools and business strategies, framed around five key principles, that will propel businesses toward industry leadership. We also provide case studies of leading companies that are already finding success on their journey toward safer chemicals. 

Over the years, a lot has been written about how to make consumer products better and safer. While we’ve seen some improvement, problematic ingredients remain in use – even though robust new science increasingly shows that old approaches to managing risk are insufficient.

Through Behind the Label, we’re striving to make safer chemicals a goal companies can achieve today, by arming them with real strategies we know work.

Why would they take the challenge? Because companies inspire and push each other in sometimes surprising ways.

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