Ridding our products and supply chains of dangerous chemicals has been the mission of The Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) since it was formed two years ago. Now, the group has released its first report on the progress some companies are making towards safer chemicals.
The CFP is touted as the first initiative of its kind to publicly benchmark corporate chemicals management. Similar to carbon footprinting, the CFP applies clear metrics that help purchasers better evaluate suppliers based on their management policies and practices around chemical use.
The new report examines the responses of participating companies—including Johnson & Johnson, The Clorox Company, GOJO Industries (makers of Purell hand sanitizer), Sysco Corporation and Levi Strauss & Co.— to questions on how they manage chemicals across four categories: management strategy, chemical inventory, footprint measurement, and disclosure and verification.
Among the report’s key findings:
- Senior leadership matters: The 29% of firms with Board-level oversight or senior management incentives performed better overall than firms with no such accountability.
- Companies need comprehensive policies: Without policies that address chemical hazards in manufacturing, supply chains and packaging—in addition to products—companies face hidden liabilities and chemical risks.
- Disclosure lags practice: Across every category – management, inventory, footprint and disclosure—companies have more chemicals management practices in place than they share publicly. For example, 83% have a legally restricted substances list, but only 17% of those companies make that list public.
- “Design for Health” sets leading edge: Companies whose entire product portfolios are based on minimizing or eliminating chemicals of high concern performed well above average.
- Chemical footprint measurement is new and challenging: Before they can reduce their chemical footprints, companies need to know the chemical ingredients in their products and identify chemicals of high concern, so it was no surprise, says the report, that in this first year, companies scored low for measuring baseline chemical footprint.
The CFP was founded by Clean Production Action (an environmental non-profit), the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachussets Lowell and Pure Strategies.