The global pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance, which has over 18,500 stores, has finally implemented its long-awaited chemicals policy that the company announced in 2014.
Walgreens’s chemicals policy took effect on November 8. The new policy includes a restricted substances list (RSL). The RSL includes toluene, triclosan, plastic microbeads, xylene and chemical groups such as parabens, phthalates, NP ethoxylates and nonylphenol,
The RSL will be implemented on personal care, household cleaning and baby products in Walgreens as well as on Boots UK-owned consumer retail lines and brands. Walgreens Boots Alliance was formed when Walgreens completed its 100% purchase of Alliance Boots UK in 2014 from just 45% in 2012.
According to the company’s website, it has started coordinating with its suppliers for the reformulation of the applicable products such that they are free of the listed substances not later than 2021.
To move the reformulation forward, Walgreens is encouraging suppliers to choose ingredients based on the criteria of U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Initiative. It also advises suppliers to find and assess safer alternatives at ChemSec’s Marketplace, an online portal that features safer substitutes to hazardous substances.
Every year, Walgreens plans to report its progress as well as update its RSL as “more scientific information becomes available”. The content on the RSL is based on various authoritative lists.
Aside from its RSL, the company has made a list of chemicals that it will monitor and try to restrict and/or phase out from its product portfolio. Eventually, this list’s chemicals which are not publicly available will be added to the RSL of the company.
Personal care products
Walgreens will keep an eye on these six authoritative lists particularly for personal care and beauty products:
- California’s Proposition 65 – reproductive and developmental toxicants and carcinogens;
- The International Agency for Research on Cancer (Iarc) – categories 1, 2A and 2B
- EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory PBTs (Persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic substances );
- EU – Cosmetics Regulation Annex II;
- EU REACH – Annex XVII CMRs (Appendices 1-6); and
- EU – Priority Endocrine Disruptors (Categories 1, 2);
These six lists are under the Beauty and Personal Care (BPC) stewardship list. The BPC list was developed from a collaboration of The Sustainability Consortium, the UK organisation Forum for the Future together with Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Target and other companies in the industry.
Walgreens’ policy requires that all suppliers of its owned or third party brands keep tracking the use of the chemicals in their beauty and personal care products.
To meet the increasing consumer demand for public disclosure of ingredients used, the company plans to:
- urge formulated products suppliers to publicly disclose digitally or on package labels the list of ingredients they have intentionally added;
- encourage suppliers to get US EPA’s Safer Choice, Cradle to Cradle and other credible certifications and
- ask suppliers post the ingredients on product labels of all own-brand household cleaners before the end of 2019.
The Mind the Store coalition of NGOs said Walgreens, Rite Aid and Amazon were recognized as the “most improved” retailers according to the latest chemicals management report card. Walgreens got a B-, which ranked it in the first 10 out of 40 US retailers evaluated.
Mind the Store commented on its report card regarding Walgreens’ policy, saying that it could improve by strengthening accountability measures, conducting its own testing and requiring that suppliers test in approved third-party laboratories. The comment added that Walgreens should expand the extent of its policy outside the current categories covered. It should also require suppliers to conduct other assessments to prevent regrettable substitutions. Mind the Store also urges Walgreens to be a signatory to the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP). The CFP provides companies with a tool to benchmark their status as they choose safer alternatives to reduce and eventually eliminate their use of hazardous chemicals.