Navigate Chemicals Disclosure
Environmental Defense Fund
Global lack of ingredient transparency has perpetuated disparities in chemical exposure for many years. For example, beauty and personal care products marketed towards women of color often contain more harmful ingredients than products marketed to white women. As a result, women of color face greater exposure to toxic chemicals. To foster a safer marketplace with equity at the forefront, companies must take action. This includes prioritizing ingredient transparency and demonstrating progress in ensuring access to safer products for all customers.
Your company can start by sharing product ingredient information on packaging and online with content that extends well beyond regulatory requirements. It is important to provide consumers with the names of all intentionally added ingredients as well as known contaminants in your products, along with clear and understandable information about the function of each ingredient and if you’re taking steps to reduce levels if problematic. Product ingredient information needs to be easy to find on a manufacturer’s or retailer’s website. It is most helpful if the information is also presented in a consistent manner across products and product lines.
Transparent and frequent public communication about your company’s commitment to safer chemicals and progress toward goals can enhance consumer trust, supplier buy-in, and employee engagement. Criticism, if received, should not be met with defensiveness, but instead used as an opportunity to revise strategies and make progress. Your company must also be cautious about greenwashing when touting successes through marketing claims and logos. Claims about the chemical composition of products can build consumer trust, but they must be rooted in fact and conform to fair trade practices.
Manage an Online Platform for Disclosure
While packaging may physically limit the amount of information that can be shared, online disclosure allows greater flexibility in terms of the extent and type of information, as well as how that information is accessed and presented. However, transferring internal data to a public-facing platform for online disclosure may create software infrastructure challenges that require time, personnel, and financial resources to manage effectively. A chemical disclosure site needs to be maintained regularly to ensure that product information is up-to-date, especially when there are changes in product formulation, and to accommodate the growing amount of data as the company gains more transparency into product ingredients.
Make a Public Commitment
To make a public commitment, the initial step is to publish your company’s corporate chemicals policy, indicating your institutional commitment, goal-oriented strategy, and thoughtful timelines to succeed. Sharing honest progress on how your product assortment, particularly those that may be specifically marketed toward people of color, is getting safer every year helps your company gain credibility and inspire others, including your suppliers, to act. Your company should also communicate the process with descriptive, concrete information, outlining which products will be targeted first, how safer chemicals will be identified, and what suppliers will be asked to do to improve products.