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Chemical Footprint Project: The next step in reporting

Chemical Footprint Project: The next step in reporting

12/8/2014 Mark Rossi, Sally Edwards, and Tim Greiner GreenBiz

Just as every company has a carbon footprint, every company has a chemical footprint — even companies not in the business of manufacturing and selling chemicals. If you are a retailer, those products that line your shelves are made from chemicals. If you sell services, you have an office with furniture, flooring, supplies and more — all made from chemicals. From changing regulatory requirements and customer demands to negative media attention and product recalls, companies have an increasing obligation to know more about the chemicals in their products and supply chains — to understand their chemical footprint.

The fact that chemicals are the foundation of everything around us presents significant management challenges for businesses that don’t know the chemicals in their products or supply chains, don’t understand the hazards of those chemicals and aren’t aware of the availability of safer alternatives. Increasingly, many companies are developing and implementing policies to better manage chemicals by demanding transparency from their suppliers and asking for safer alternatives to toxic chemicals. Target, Walmart, Staples, Whole Foods Market and healthcare giants Dignity Health and Kaiser Permanente are among the end users of chemicals in products looking to reward suppliers that are proactive in their chemicals management. Yet tangible corporate progress towards safer chemicals is stymied by the lack of a consistent approach.

The simple truth is companies can’t manage what they don’t measure, and currently very few measure their chemical footprint. With growing demand for clear metrics of chemical management performance, chemical footprinting is the imperative next frontier in sustainability reporting, empowering companies to evaluate their progress away from chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment toward safer alternatives.

Now, there’s a way to measure it.

A group of corporate and NGO leaders are supporting the release of a new tool for managing chemicals across supply chains. The Chemical Footprint Project provides the first common metric of its kind for publicly benchmarking companies’ use of chemicals of high concern and their progress in implementing comprehensive chemical management programs. The CFP measures overall chemicals management performance by evaluating how companies answer questions in the following categories:

Management strategy: Measures the scope of corporate chemical policies and their integration into business strategy, accountability and employees’ incentives for safer chemical use, as well as support of initiatives and public policies for safer chemicals.

Chemical inventory: Measures a company’s level of knowledge about the chemicals used by its suppliers in products, components and manufacturing processes, and its systems for managing chemical data and ensuring supplier compliance with its reporting requirements.

Progress measurement: Measures the goals set to reduce chemicals of high concern, progress in establishing a baseline corporate chemical footprint and reducing chemicals of high concern and degree to which alternatives are assessed, identified and implemented.

Public disclosure: Measures whether a company publicly releases the names of chemicals in products and manufacturing, whether it discloses participation in CFP and its answers to these questions and whether the answers have been independently verified by a third party.

Chemical barrels

The CFP measures overall chemicals management performance by evaluating how companies answer questions in four categories.

Just as companies evaluate their carbon, water and waste footprints, the CFP finally provides a tool that enables purchasers and brands to: benchmark and measure progress towards safer chemicals; recognize and reward suppliers for doing what matters most to retailers and customers; create greater accountability across value chains; encourage chemical information sharing; and provide a metric to compare and measure continuous improvement of suppliers.

Investors are especially interested in CFP because it fills a gaping hole in corporate sustainability assessments. Constantina Bichta of Boston Common Asset Management explained the value of CFP to the investment community: "As investors, we ask portfolio companies to assess chemicals used in their value chain and seek safer alternatives. The Chemical Footprint Project addresses a significant gap in chemicals supply chain assessment, where companies are able to assess chemicals used in supply chain, benchmark their performance relative to their peers and identify areas for improvement."

To ensure its adaptability, CFP involves a wide range of stakeholders. The founders of CFP are the environmental non-profit Clean Production Action, research institute the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell and sustainability consultancy Pure Strategies. Guiding the work of the CFP is a steering committee made up of representatives that include Target Corporation; Staples, Inc.; Boston Common Asset Management; Kaiser Permanente; Trillium Asset Management, LLC; Partners HealthCare; ChemSec; Dignity Health; Environmental Defense Fund; Investor Environmental Health Network; and the U.S. Green Building Council.

The CFP will provide all industry sectors with critical data for making smarter investment and procurement decisions and will identify leaders in business sectors. Not only does the CFP promote chemicals management that better protects human health and the environment, it also creates long-term value for companies and shareholders by enhancing brand reputation, increasing sales, promoting innovative products, increasing supply chain reliability and avoiding the high costs of chemical crises.

“CFP is a market differentiator and provides a competitive advantage for business leaders,” said Roger McFadden of Staples, Inc. This new tool will add a level of transparency and help companies mitigate reputational and regulatory risks and exploit opportunities afforded by moving to safer chemicals.”

It finally establishes a meaningful measurement of overall corporate performance and creates a framework to make more efficient progress to safer chemicals in products and supply chains.

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Originally posted in GreenBiz
Press Release: Chemical Footprint Project Launch image

New Tool Launched Today Measures Corporate Progress Towards Safer Chemicals

Third-Party Benchmark Designed to Help Reduce Public Health & Environmental Risks from Chemical Exposure for Health Care Industry, Retail Stores, Socially Responsible Investors and other Stakeholders


For Immediate Release: Monday, December 8, 2014, 12:01am EST

A group of corporate and NGO leaders today released a new tool for assessing leadership in corporate chemicals management.  The Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) provides the first-ever common metric of its kind for publicly benchmarking corporate chemicals management and profiling leadership companies.

“You can’t manage what you don’t measure,” said Dr. Mark Rossi, Co-Director of the nonprofit Clean Production Action and Chair and Founder of BizNGO, who released the Chemical Footprint Project today with the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and Pure Strategies.  “The CFP finally establishes a meaningful measurement of overall corporate performance to safer chemicals in products and supply chains.  We look forward to engaging business leaders in tracking and disclosing their Chemical Footprints.”

Business leaders are moving ahead of regulations to avoid chemicals of high concern to human health or the environment in their products and supply chains. They are meeting the needs of customers large and small who are concerned with toxic chemicals in products. From health care to retail, purchasers are seeking products made with inherently safer chemicals. Now these purchasers will have a tool to quickly compare and benchmark suppliers. In addition, socially responsible investment firms can use this new tool to evaluate companies on their chemical management and select companies for investment.     

Similar to Carbon Footprinting, Chemical Footprinting can apply to any business sector. Retailers, health care organizations, governments, and investors all see value in a comprehensive measure of business progress to safer chemicals. “CFP is a market differentiator and provides a competitive advantage for business leaders,” said Roger McFadden of Staples, Inc.  “This new tool will add a level of transparency and help companies mitigate reputational and regulatory risks and exploit opportunities afforded by moving to safer chemicals.” 

The CFP will enable purchasers to preferentially select suppliers and investors to integrate chemical risk into their sustainability analyses and investments. The CFP results enable brands to market their progress and success in using safer chemicals.

The CFP Steering Committee members include representatives from: Boston Common Asset Management, ChemSec, Dignity Health, Environmental Defense Fund, Investor Environmental Health Network, Kaiser Permanente, Partners Healthcare, Staples, Inc., Target Corporation, Trillium Asset Management, LLC, and the U.S. Green Building Council, among others.

The CFP is the first initiative to publicly measure overall corporate chemicals management performance by evaluating:

  • Management Strategy
  • Chemical Inventory
  • Progress Measurement
  • Public Disclosure

For more information about the Chemical Footprint Project, see www.chemicalfootprint.org

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What Steering Committee Members and Brands are saying about the Chemical Footprint Project:

“CFP greatly simplifies the complex issue of chemicals management,” remarked Monica Nakielski of Partners HealthCare. “We now have a tool that is available for plugging into purchasing decisions.”

“Hazardous chemicals impose a heavy burden on workers, communities and the environment and present reputational, regulatory, and reformulation risks across a broad range of industry sectors.  Investors need to understand how companies are meaningfully managing these risks,” said Susan Baker of Trillium Asset Management, LLC.

“We see the Chemical Footprint Project enabling us to quickly recognize and reward suppliers for doing what matters most to us in health care, which is implementing systems to ensure their products and supply chains use safe and healthy chemical ingredients,” explained Vanessa Lochner of Kaiser Permanente

"Chemicals in products and supply chains can be a hidden liability that can bear significant reputational risks for companies," said Constantina Bichta of Boston Common Asset Management. "As investors, we ask portfolio companies to assess chemicals used in their value chain and seek safer alternatives. The Chemical Footprint Project addresses a significant gap in chemicals supply chain assessment, where companies are able to assess chemicals used in supply chain, benchmark their performance relative to their peers, and identify areas for improvement."

“Not only does the CFP promote chemicals management that better protects human health and the environment, it also creates long-term value for companies and shareholders by enhancing brand reputation, increasing sales, promoting innovative products, increasing supply chain reliability, and avoiding the high costs of chemical crises,” said Mary Ellen Leciejewski of Dignity Health.

“The Chemical Footprint Project gives companies across all industries tools to evaluate their progress in reducing Chemicals of High Concern and proactively identify opportunities for further action,” highlighted Joyce Taylor of the Hewlett-Packard Company. “For HP, the footprint tool uses a standardized scoring methodology that gives our customers another way to engage with us and our products and enables HP to continue to create solutions that reduce environmental impact.”

“We need metrics for reporting and benchmarking overall corporate performance on chemicals management,” emphasized Annie Schmidt of Seagate Technology, LLC. “CFP is a publicly developed standard which could allow us to benchmark, track and report our overall corporate chemical management performance going forward. We look forward to its launch in 2015.”

"Beautycounter's mission is to get safe products into everyone's hands, so carefully evaluating potential ingredients and materials are core to our business and our purpose,” explained Mia Davis. “We look forward to helping to advance CFP as a measure for improving business decisions, supply chain transparency, and ultimately, as a way to ensure people have access to safer products."

“The Chemical Footprint Project provides an independent, third party assessment tool that will help companies to think about how to fully integrate their policies into procedures and vice-versa,” said Jane Abernethy of Humanscale.

“CFP provides the definitive tool for measuring overall corporate chemical management performance,” noted Barry Cik of Naturepedic. “We look forward to its widespread use in the furnishings sector where a credible, third party benchmarking of chemical performance is missing, yet needed.”

“A company’s chemical footprint is more than just the mass of chemicals used, it is how a company selects the chemicals it uses, protects workers, and communicates with suppliers and customers,” explained Martin Wolf of Seventh Generation. “The Chemical Footprint Project’s assessment tool systematically explores each of these aspects of a company’s chemical footprint.”

“Participating in the Chemical Footprint Project pilot led us to develop a formal chemical policy that will be included on our website,” said Jessica Iclisoy of California Baby“Our chemicals policy and its successful implementation is the very heart of our company philosophy.”

“The Investor Environmental Health Network welcomes the launch of the Chemical Footprint Project,” announced Dr. Richard Liroff. “For too long chemicals and health have been missing pieces in Environmental Social Governance (ESG) assessments. Now we have a tool that investors can use to fill in this critical information.”

 “Corporate performance in chemicals management varies widely, from barely being in compliance with regulations to capturing new markets through innovative products based on safer chemicals,” noted Sonja Haider of ChemSec. “We look forward to using a tool that rewards innovators for using safer substitutes.”

“Companies need to know the chemicals in their products and supply chains, and be able to benchmark their performance,” noted Sarah Vogel, PhD, of the Environmental Defense Fund. “CFP offers a new and welcomed option for companies to make progress in these efforts.”

“The Chemical Footprint Project pilot gave us the tool and framework to conduct a robust self-assessment that will be instrumental in the forward progression of our sustainable chemistry policy,” said Nicole Koharik from GOJO.  “As a company founded on providing safer solutions to clean hands, we are greatly benefiting from the rich dialogue our CFP pilot participation is generating internally and externally regarding optimal strategies for providing the safest, most effective products for human health and the environment.”

About the Chemical Footprint Project

The Chemical Footprint Project was founded by the environmental non-profit Clean Production Action, the research institute The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and the sustainability consultancy Pure Strategies.  It’s mission is to transform global chemical use by measuring and disclosing data on business progress to safer chemicals. 

The CFP aims to:

  • Establish a common metric for assessing progress to inherently safer chemicals,
  • Bring transparency to chemicals management practices, and
  • Benchmark company performance.

Clean Production Action is an environmental organization that advances safer alternatives to toxic chemicals through its GreenScreen® and BizNGO programs. BizNGO is a unique collaboration of businesses and NGOs working together to promote safer chemicals and drive innovation into and across supply chains and government regulations.

The Lowell Center for Sustainable Production is a research institute that works collaboratively with citizens, workers, businesses, and governments to create healthy work environments, viable businesses, and thriving communities that support sustainable production and consumption.

Pure Strategies is a leading sustainability consultancy that helps companies improve environmental and social performance through green product design and production, sustainable materials, strong community relationships, and transparent measures of progress.

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