Target's New Chemical Strategy: A Q&A with its Chief Sustainabity Officer

Target recently announced its new chemical strategy—committed to to driving transparency, proactive chemical management, and innovation across all of the company’s owned and national brand consumer products and operations.

This new strategy will: strive for full visibility of chemicals contained in or used to make products Target sells and uses in operations; work with business partners to implement policies, practices and tools that facilitate the management of chemicals throughout the supply chain and across operations; and pursue and promote new approaches to chemical development and safer alternatives.

The goals of the strategy are to:
  • Achieve transparency to all ingredients including generics by 2020;
  • Improve products by formulating without phthalates, propylparaben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, or NPE’s by 2020;
  • Improve textile products by removing added Perfluorinated Chemicals from products by 2022;
  • Improve textile products by removing added flame retardants that are potential carcinogens or pose harm by 2022; and
  • Invest up to $5 million in green chemistry innovation by 2022. 
CR Magazine asked Jennifer Silberman, chief sustainability officer at Target, about the new chemical strategy and the company's goals.

CR Magazine: Why did Target decide to address chemicals in products? Were there requests from customers? 

Jennifer Silberman: At Target, we know our guests care about what is in their products and trust us to provide better choices for them and their families. They are becoming increasingly concerned with chemicals in products they use in, on, or around their bodies. According to NMI’s 2016 Sustainability report, 66 percent of U.S. consumers are interested in socially and/or environmentally better products.

We’ve also been seeing category sales growth coming from better-for-you products. We believe that by driving chemical transparency, proactive chemical management and innovation across all of our product categories and operations, we can help reduce unwanted substances from homes and workplaces of millions of our guests and people who make our products.

CR: Why is it so important to address the issue of these unwanted chemicals and their potential health impact?

JS: We believe all guests and their families should have access to better-for-you products in their homes and workplaces. Making an informed choice about the products we manufacture and sell should be simple. Our comprehensive strategy is designed to give guests greater peace of mind and confidence in their purchases at the store and beyond.

CR: How will you achieve transparency of all ingredients? How specifically are you looking at your supply chains?

JS: Our close collaboration with our vendors is critical to ensuring compliance throughout the supply chain. A key part of this process will involve providing feedback and constant communication every step of the way to ensure collaboration and positive impact.

We already have a good start with our Sustainable Product Index (SPI)—a tool we developed in partnership with industry experts, vendors and NGOs, to help establish a common language, definition and process for increased transparency and qualifying what makes a product more sustainable. As part of this commitment to transparency, we are asking all of our vendors not yet participating in our Sustainable Product Index to be compliant by 2018.

CR: Why is green chemistry so important in product development?

JS: Through our commitment to innovation, we are uniquely seeking to invest resources and expertise to identify and catalyze safer chemical alternatives, where no viable substitutions currently exist. For example, our work during the GC3 Preservatives Challenge has helped to advance greener chemistry in beauty and personal care products. We will actively engage with NGOs, associations and industry partners to innovate and promote a consistent approach to greener chemistry.

CR: Do you believe Target leads the way in these sustainable efforts?

JS: Target’s holistic approach of evaluating all product categories and operations—from cleansers to clothes—is a first of its kind in retail. In addition, our chemical policy evaluates process chemicals, or chemicals used in the process of making the product, not just those that are found in the product. Our commitments are driven by collaboration, and we hope that our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry. We look forward to partnering with supply chain partners, vendors and other organizations on our unique innovation-inspired goals to work toward finding safer alternatives to unwanted chemicals, ultimately enhancing the health and well-being of millions of guests.

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