Monday, March 1, 2010

Will Wal-Mart Beat the FDA/EPA to Chemical Reform?

Recently I started thinking about Wal-Mart's efforts toward reducing its carbon footprint (which they are famously doing by requiring their suppliers to reduce their collective footprint). As I understand it, their position was essentially "while our carbon footprint is big, the carbon footprint of our vendors is many multiples greater, so helping them achieve great energy and materials efficiencies helps everyone." True, but I always thought it was a blatant cop-out as well as a brilliant strategy to extract even lower prices from their vendors.

My new thinking is that maybe they can use their enormous influence to do what government agencies don't have the power or the wherewithall to do expeditiously: Rid consumer products of untested, unsafe chemicals.

Think about it. Tomorrow, Wal-Mart could look at the great body of scientific research from all over the world and say, hmmm, these studies prove that some chemicals are not safe for human exposure. It's our duty to protect our customers from harmful chemicals that are most likely causing cancer, reproductive dysfunctions, neurological disorders, respiratory illnesses and scads of other ailments.

They could issue a mandate: Any company wishing to sell to Wal-Mart will need to reformulate their product -- and submit testing by an independent laboratory to verify product composition -- by 2011 to remove phthalates, triclosan, formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, parabens, methylchloroisothiazolinone, PEGs, triethanolamine, BPA, PBDEs, PFOA, perchlorate and PBTs (just for starters).

You know what? A few vendors would cry foul. Wal-Mart would stand its ground. And we'd all end up with a slew of reformulated, healthier products at a fair price with wide availability. Their tagline, "Save money. Live better." would have a whole new meaning.

Suddenly, I'm feeling optimistic. I just hope our chemical reform advocates see the light and shift their efforts from Washington, D.C., to Bentonville.

No comments:

Post a Comment