Action Guide

Set Chemical Footprint Reduction Goal

Environmental Defense Fund

A chemical footprint reduction goal requires strong and continuous commitment and support from company leaders. Starting with assessing and prioritizing chemicals of concern, your company should also set a corporate chemicals policy to affirm your institutional commitment and articulate your goal across all levels of the organization and to suppliers.

A safer chemicals strategy begins with understanding where toxic chemicals are present in your business and leveraging this understanding to set specific goals for reduction. However, simultaneously addressing every chemical of concern can be overwhelming, particularly for retailers selling a wide range of products. It is helpful for your company to identify a subset of high-priority chemicals to tackle first. 

Your company’s institutional commitment is crucial to attaining leadership in safer chemicals. This commitment can be demonstrated through a written corporate chemicals policy that clearly communicates the company’s overarching vision and specific objectives for chemicals management and product portfolio. The chemicals policy should outline the top goals for critical leadership initiatives on supply chain transparency, informing consumers, and safer product design.  

Prioritize Your Chemicals

To prioritize areas for action, your company can follow three main steps:  

  1. Identify the chemicals of concern universe: Chemicals of concern are those associated with major acute and chronic health and environmental impacts. Your company can consult publicly available lists created by authoritative bodies such as the United Nations Environment Programme, the European Chemicals Agency, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in order to identify these chemicals. Some NGOs, such as ChemSec and GreenScreen, also compiled key authoritative lists linking chemicals to specific human health and environment hazard endpoints. 
  1. Screen chemicals of concern for relevance: One way is to locate the chemicals of concern in your value chain to assess the potential for exposure to consumers, workers, and communities in which your business and supply chain operates. This involves determining whether the chemicals of concern appear in your product portfolio, manufacturing processes, or in use by upstream suppliers. 
  1. Prioritize a subset of chemicals of concern for action: Your company should focus on eliminating toxic chemicals used at scale across your business, particularly those to which people of color are disproportionately exposed. Your company should also consider chemicals that are under the most scrutiny by key stakeholders including regulatory bodies, the scientific community, NGOs, and consumers, as they pose the greatest material risk to your business.  

Create a Corporate Chemicals Policy

Creating a corporate chemicals policy is a critical component of a successful safer chemicals strategy. The chemicals policy affirms the company’s commitment and articulates to all levels of the organization and to suppliers where the company wants to go and how the supply chain will be involved. It is important to develop your chemicals policy with equity at the forefront to ensure safer products are available, accessible, and affordable for all consumers, regardless of race or income. 

At a high level, the chemicals policy can be led by the sustainability team and should involve input from key business functions and consideration of how the policy affects their primary objectives and where synergies exist. In addition, consulting with advocacy organizations and communities can provide valuable subject matter expertise and insights into consumer needs. The chemicals policy should include chemical footprint reduction goals, and your company may consider the framework put forth by The Chemical Footprint Project to help identify and track goals.  

To gain traction in your company, the chemicals policy must be endorsed by corporate executives overseeing relevant business functions who can communicate its impact to employees and suppliers. 

The chemicals policy should be considered a dynamic document that can be iteratively refined through stakeholder conversations, supply chain review, and updated with new goals over time.