The unique challenges of developing an environmental management compliance system for a retailer with thousands of stores may be an enigma to many consumer and institutional products companies. At a packed session at CSPA’s Mid-Year Meeting in Chicago, attendees learned about handling, storing and disposing of products in a retail setting regulated under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act (RCRA). They heard how retailers are developing sophisticated sustainability initiatives responsive to customers’ requests. And they left knowing that customers want more information about what is in the products they are buying.
“We want to keep materials out of landfills and incinerators; to minimize overall waste from operations and to reverse logistics distribution to achieve increased sustainability” – CVS
Wendy Brandt, Senior Manager with CVS Health’s Environmental Health and Safety Department, emphasized the waste minimization goals of CVS. “We want to keep materials out of landfills and incinerators; to minimize overall waste from operations and to reverse logistics distribution to achieve increased sustainability,” she said. Training employees on how to dispose of or recycle products that are leaking, used, partially full, broken or unpackaged is an enormous undertaking with over 200,000 possible items with 25,000 to 30,000 on store shelves in a season. “We have to educate about 150,000 employees in our 8,000 stores,” she explained. She urged supply chain partners to reduce waste in their products and packaging and to provide input on regulatory reform efforts.
Alain Turenne, Division Vice President Corporate Social Responsibility and Product Integrity for Walgreen Co., was also keen on partnering with consumer brands – this time to meet and exceed environmental compliance goals. With a similar number of retail outlets, Walgreens has taken a “purposeful” approach to moving beyond compliance. The company has opened its first net zero store in Evanston, IL and it has developed several product lines that are free of “chemicals of concern.” “The next step is increased transparency,” Turenne said. “We are being asked by consumers to tell them what it is in the products so they have a way to make an informed choice of what to buy.”
Turenne said Walgreens’ aspiration is to “provide consumers with easily understandable, digestible and actionable information.” The 114-year-old company is engaging with multiple, diverse external stakeholders to craft a chemicals policy that will meet the expectations of its customers and he encouraged suppliers to do the same.
The third retail panelist, Roger McFadden, vice president and senior scientist for Staples, redefined the definition of compliance for CSPA members to include both “regulatory and customer compliance.” McFadden said that Staples business customers – their largest base – say they want increased ingredient disclosure and transparency about the products they purchase. He said consumer research indicates that they care about three things when it comes to products containing chemicals: their health, their children and the environment. Staples challenges its suppliers to use sustainable chemistry/green engineering principles in product design or re-design whenever possible, to consider using chemicals on the EPA Safer Chemical.