Target has improved its sustainable product standard by beginning to test category-specific criteria and consider more toxic chemicals. The retailer’s Sustainable Product Index evaluates products based on a points system and the highest-scoring options are promoted under its “Made to Matter” banner.
The Index was previously called Target’s Sustainable Product Standard and scored 7,000 products on a 100-point scale. Scores are based on whether the products contain ingredients with high levels of health concerns or ingredients that are hazardous to aquatic environments, the transparency/public disclosure of ingredients, packaging waste/recyclability, and whether the product has been tested on animals. Information is collected and evaluated using UL's Purview Platform.
The updated Index raises the possible top score to 115 points. Products are now rewarded for various third-party certifications, including up to 10 points for EPA Design or Cradle to Cradle (Bronze, Silver or Gold), up to 3 points if one or more feedstock materials earned USDA organic, biopreferred, non-GMO, fair trade, or sustainably produced certification, and up to 2 points for Forest Stewardship Council- (FSC) or Sustainable Forestry Initiative-certified feedstock materials.
Household cleaning products are eligible for a score up to 135 points, as Target pilots category-specific criteria. Cleaning products can earn up to 10 additional points based on the percentage of their ingredients that are on the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL). The remaining 10 points are based on sustainability improvements such as materials, reduced energy consumption, or reduced air pollution, depending on whether the product is a laundry detergent or surface cleaner.
Target spokesperson Angie Thompson told Sustainable Brands that over 1,000 chemicals are now included in the Index, including triclosan, a hormone-disrupting antibacterial ingredient under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review, and almost 600 substances from Health Canada’s list of prohibited cosmetic ingredients. These chemicals are not banned; rather, companies are rewarded for the positive aspects of their products and sustainability improvements through the point system.
“We know our guests care about wellness and want to make better choices for their families and communities,” Thompson said. “As a part of our wellness strategy we’re focused on what we’re calling clean-label product solutions. This means providing our guests with better-for-you products that are made with simple, natural and recognizable materials and ingredients in many areas, such as food, health and beauty and household items. To build on this commitment, Target uses our Sustainable Product Index to assess products on ingredients, transparency, minimal environmental impact, certification and key issues within product categories.”
It is unclear, however, if there is a timeline in place for the elimination of the chemicals from Target products.
Target plans to continue to add product categories; with this update, feminine care products joined personal care, baby care, beauty, and household cleaning. Target previously announced it would work with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to add cosmetics in 2014, but they have yet to be added. As Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families pointed out this week, apparel, electronics, infant and children’s toys are “ripe for action” categories as well that Target should also consider. The organization also pointed out that Target does not currently incorporate the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) Assessment Tool in its evaluations of suppliers or products, as do Staples and Marriott International.
In 2013, Walmart required that suppliers eliminate 10 undisclosed substances from products, and offered suppliers resources to help them find preferred alternative ingredients. It is possible that Target will follow Walmart’s lead and leverage its buying power to pressure suppliers; Target and Walmart joined forces to launch the Personal Care Sustainability Summit last year and brought several high-profile brands to the table to discuss product sustainability progress.