Chemicals have a huge impact on our health and environment. Over 3,000 chemicals come onto commerce each year and only a small percentage of those chemicals are ever tested for health impacts. Fortunately, some organizations are undertaking the big, important task of understanding their own and others’ chemical footprints through the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP).
To dive further into this, Tuesday’s panel of experts featured Tim Greiner, Managing Director at Pure Strategies; Al Iannuzzi, Senior Director of Environmental, Health, and Safety at Johnson & Johnson; Vanessa Lochner, Director of Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Program Director at Kaiser Permanente; and Mia Davis, Head of Environment, Health, and Safety at Beautycounter.
The CFP was founded by Clean Production Action, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Pure Strategies. CFP’s vision is “a world where chemicals are healthy for people and the environment; where disease rates for cancer, infertility, asthma, and learning disabilities are falling rapidly; and where governments and markets reward healthy products.” To achieve this, the CFP created a benchmarking tool to look at health in products and corporate practice in multiple organizations from a variety of sectors.
Today, every person is born with over 200 synthetic chemicals in their system. Greiner states that this is a “huge crisis and a huge opportunity for companies to move forward.” Moreover, how can investors assess performance of organizations and understand the risk and liabilities of a brand if they don’t know what potentially harmful chemicals the company is using?
Kaiser Permanente is committed to doing no harm to its patients; Lochner pointed out that the healthcare provider recognize “that environmental contributors play a huge role in chronic disease.” That includes chemicals. They believe that the environmental aspect of a product should not be “the last box checked” in purchasing decisions. Through thorough screening at the corporate and SKU level of products, Kaiser is proving to be a thought leader in exhibiting the connection between the health of the environment and the health of their members.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson is the largest and most comprehensive health and personal care company in the world, with the largest segment of their portfolio in pharmaceuticals. The size and scope of the organization adds inherent complexity, and its decentralized management model can make applying chemical policies throughout the enterprise a difficult task. However, by taking part in the CFP and being ranked 4th in the 2016 CFP Annual Report, J&J is leading by example and showing other large organizations that, even though it is a daunting task, it is possible to take proactive steps to understanding your chemical footprint.
Beautycounter’s “entire reason for existence is to make safer products while not compromising on performance.” It’s clear that Davis is passionate about creating safe cosmetics. She pointed out that cosmetics is an unregulated industry and the most recent law for cosmetics regulations is from 1938 – almost 80 years ago. Cosmetic companies are still allowed to use harmful chemicals, such as carcinogens in baby shampoo. Beautycounter lives its mission in three ways:
- Advocating for good policies
- Creating safer products and shifting the cosmetics market
Beautycounter’s 20,000 direct sales reps not only sell its products but act as voices of change in their communities; they are provided the tools to educate people on the importance of safe chemicals.
Pure Strategies, Kaiser Permanente, J&J and Beautycounter are on the forefront of an endeavor that will have tremendous impact on the health of people for generations to come.