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Great news – Costco develops new safer chemicals policy!

Costco storefront

We have some exciting news on Costco!

We’re pleased to report that Costco has announced that it is committing to reducing harmful chemicals in the products it sells by adopting a new Chemicals Management Policy! Fewer hazardous chemicals on Costco’s shelves mean fewer hazardous chemicals in our homes, our bodies, and our environment.

Costco made its announcement on its website stating:

“Costco’s Chemical Management Policy goes beyond the boundaries of regulatory compliance in an effort to reduce potential chemical harm to humans and to the environment from the product manufacturing process and from consumer use and disposal.” 

The policy outlines the steps the company is taking with suppliers including:

1) Identifying chemicals of concern (utilizing comprehensive testing programs);

2) Removing or applying the process of informed substitution for any identified chemicals of concern;

3) Identifying ways suppliers can change their manufacturing processes to reduce hazardous chemical use; and

4) Reviewing qualified third-party green certifications.

Additionally, the company is partnering with the Berkeley Center for Green Chemistry to help develop implementation of this Chemical Management Policy, beginning by focusing on three product areas: furniture, textiles, personal care and household products.  This builds on Costco’s Smart Screening Program the company announced earlier in the year.

Costco also revealed more of the chemicals and products it is testing through its Smart Screening Program, such as flame retardants, phthalates, PFAS chemicals, and organotins in various products.  We hope over time Costco will disclose the full list of chemicals it is restricting and testing for, as other major retailers have done.

Costco’s announcement is really good news for its members who will benefit from safer chemicals in their shopping carts and homes. But it’s also a signal to the market that harmful chemicals need to go. Costco’s suppliers will have to examine their products and reduce their use of toxic chemicals.

Costco is finally starting to catch up with other big retailers, like Walmart and Target, that have adopted safer chemicals policies and are actively identifying and reducing toxic chemicals in consumer products. Last year the Who’s Minding the Store report card gave Costco an “F”. It’s safe to say the company is no longer failing, and its grade will surely improve in the forthcoming 2017 report card.

We can’t downplay the role consumer demand plays in these decisions. In January at its annual shareholder meeting, Costco received over 35,000 signed petitions asking the company to adopt a safer chemicals policy. Combined with thousands of emails and customer comments asking the company to reduce the chemicals on its shelves, Costco heard its members loud and clear, and the company answered. Thank you Costco!

Costco’s actions are positive and something to be excited about. Of course the company needs to follow through and implement the new policy with clear goals, timelines, and progress reports on its implementation of this initiative. We’ll look for future announcements from Costco on the specific chemicals and products the company is targeting for elimination, as well as specific goals for reductions.

Costco has finally responded with meaningful actions demonstrating the company cares what its members want and their health. Now it’s up to Costco to follow through. We look forward to seeing how Costco moves forward in implementing this policy in the year to come.

Mike Schade is the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families Mind the Store Campaign Director.

Laurie Valeriano is the Executive Director of Toxic-Free Future.