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Are Cleaning Products Companies On the Road to Health First?

Are Cleaning Products Companies On the Road to Health First?

Alex Scranton
Director of Science and Research

This week we are pleased to release our initial Health First Roadmap assessment. We focused this round on a handful of cleaning product companies Women’s Voices for the Earth has been in conversation with over the years. On the roadmap, you will see how six different companies have fared on each specific section.

The Health First roadmap is designed as a guide for cleaning product companies to think more holistically about their chemicals management programs and their commitment to chemical safety. While critically important to public health, chemicals management has not yet reached the same level of corporate awareness as say other critical issues such as carbon emissions, water usage or energy conservation. The Roadmap is designed to help change that, by providing metrics, policy recommendations and other tools, to bring concerns of chemical ingredients – which are already on the minds of consumers – more formally to the corporate arena. In short, The Roadmap clearly lays out what we expect — what the public expects — an effective chemicals safety screening process to look like.

The process of putting together this assessment has already been interesting! We had conversations with all the companies we assessed – save one, Clorox, which chose not to respond – about their Health First assessments in advance. We learned about new company initiatives and projects that are in process – and which we hope will reflect progress for many companies in future Roadmap assessments. It also gave us a chance to better explain our concerns and rationale for putting the roadmap out there.

A few take homes that we have learned thus far:

  • Our top-ranked Health First designation is both aspirational and inspirational! Companies are interested and motivated to reach the Health First level, but some are also skeptical if it is fully possible to do in today’s world.
  • Smaller/newer companies may have an advantage in reaching Health First. Developing a company and its products with Health First principles in mind from the start – can be easier than implementing policies later, and retooling/reformulating existing product lines.
  • Third party certification (i.e. getting your products certified by an outside organization applying strict chemical safety standards) is proving to be an increasingly popular and useful way for companies to both address chemical safety issues and gain credibility with customers.
  • Similarly, companies have seen great value in participating in the Chemical Footprint Project. The process requires companies to answer key questions that have often never been asked of them before – driving new insights.
  • Public disclosure of the specifics of chemical safety initiatives is key to success. Consumer trust is not gained by simple assurances that chemical safety is a company priority. Customers want to know what steps are being taken, and what hard decisions are being made about product ingredients for the benefit of their health.

Rather than working on campaigns chemical-by-chemical, or product-by-product, Women’s Voices for the Earth wanted to give companies our vision of where we’d like to see the industry go. A vision where Health truly comes First. A world where you don’t have to mitigate the risks of inherently toxic chemicals by attempting to control exposures – because you simply wouldn’t use them in the first place. We are optimistic about what we have seen in this initial assessment. We look forward to broadening it to more companies in the industry in the future as well.

PS – Some companies are definitely on track to putting your health first, but one company in particular, Clorox, is lagging behind. Learn more and take action!

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