How to Optimize Your Chemical Management Plan to Score Higher on the Retailers Report Card

April 12, 2021 | Insights,

What is Mind the Store and the Retailer Report Card?

Mind the Store is a campaign that “challenges the largest retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals in products and packaging and develop comprehensive safer chemicals policies.” Since 2016, the Mind the Store campaign has published an annual “Who’s Minding the Store?” Retailer Report Card that ranks retailers on their efforts towards reducing and eliminating toxic chemicals while offering safer, more sustainable products and packaging. 

The list of retailers being ‘graded’ continues to grow every year – as do many retailer efforts towards advancing sustainable chemistry solutions in their products, supply chain, and operations. The most recent report launched March 30, 2021 shows that ‘nearly 70% of companies surveyed have better chemical safety programs now compared to [Mind the Store’s] first evaluation in 2016.

How are Retailers Graded?

The campaign is transparent on its methodology and provides the scoring rubric on its website. This table outlines the general criteria and maximum points awarded per criteria:

Criteria Possible Points
Action – Reduced or eliminated chemicals of high concern or plastics of environmental health concerns within the last 3 years 26
Policy – Adopted a retailer safer chemicals policy 23.5
Transparency – Demonstrates a commitment to transparency and public disclosure 20
Disclosure – Requires suppliers to report use of chemicals in products to retailer 17.5
Alternatives – Evaluates safer alternatives, avoids regrettable substitutes 16
Accountability – Ensure supply chain accountability 15
Continuous Improvement – Shows continuous improvement by steadily expanding safer chemicals policy 10
3rd Party Standards – Promotes credible third-party standards for safer products 8.5
Chemical Footprint – Evaluates its chemical footprint 7.5
Oversight – Established management responsibilities and incentives 5
Collaboration – Actively participates in collaborative process to promote safer chemicals 5
Impact Investment – Investing in financial resources into independent research into safer alternatives and/or green chemistry solutions 5
Joint Announcement – Public commitment demonstrated through joint announcement with Mind the Store 5

How can retailers improve their Retailer Report Card score?

Given the list of criteria the Retailer Report Card methodology utilizes above, it becomes apparent there are many ways a retailer can improve their score depending on where it is in its journey. Fundamentally, however, like many sustainability scoring frameworks, the Retailer Report Card expects that retailers looking to improve their scores across all criteria will consider developing (or updating) and implementing a comprehensive and proactive chemical policy. Ideally this policy can then support additional scoring criteria including transparency, alternative assessment, supply chain accountability, and more.

 

Key considerations for developing and implementing a chemical policy

Driving an enterprise-wide chemical policy looks different for every organization and is dependent on an organization’s size, product assortment, internal and external resources, and the ambition of the policy. However, years of experience has allowed Anthesis to identify five key elements in the development and implementation of a successful chemicals policy that are likely true for any organization.

1. Get leadership buy-in

Before organizations can begin developing a chemical policy it is imperative to get leadership buy-in. For organizations just getting started, take the time to understand what motivates your leadership and then build the business case to target those priorities. For example, you may want to provide data to support how a chemical policy can add business value by assembling customer inquiries, requests for data, possible compliance requirements, breaches or other industry and stakeholder data that together can impact the top line. This type of information is typically the most useful in making the case for creating a policy since it affects current and/or future revenue at risk.

Once buy-in is established, retail leadership should signal organizational commitment to the chemical policy with messaging that clearly articulates the specific objectives of the chemical policy and how it supports the company’s vision, values and principles. Not only does this signify individual leaders’ support for the initiative, but it can influence and catalyze action among peers within the organization to expand leadership buy-in. Building a broad base of support in leadership across departments is an invaluable component to a successful policy development process.

 

2. Create a governance structure

Once the organization is prepared to start developing a chemical policy, it is important to designate a person or group of individuals to oversee the development and implementation of the chemical policy objectives. As with any complex initiative, you need individuals to manage the project who will establish timelines, ensure milestones are met, and build alignment with key internal and possibly external stakeholders. Creating a governance structure ensures those key individuals are identified, engaged, and have clear ownership within the business for a successful outcome.

This can mean pulling together a cross-functional corporate responsibility team from sourcing, product development, quality, merchandising, and operations as well as utilizing a company like Anthesis to provide subject matter expertise, identify and agree on the policy objectives, and to drive forward the process.

 

3. Develop a strategy

To inform strategy development, it is critical to do some form of benchmarking, goal-setting, prioritization, road-mapping, and monitoring of current and future market activity. Benchmarking should begin in the development phase of the chemical policy as it allows organizations to evaluate their performance based on the successful practices of others in their industry. Every organization should understand how they currently manage chemicals in their products and supply chain and what best practice looks like in each product category they sell. In some cases, simply being able to answer the question, ‘how are we doing this now?’ becomes its own journey. Benchmarking also helps establish a baseline from which an organization can begin to set goals, prioritize tasks, develop a roadmap, and monitor progress. These are continuous activities that should be revisited after the policies are implemented, internal processes are adjusted, performance is monitored, and new best practices are established.

While supporting a major NA retailer in its chemical policy development, Anthesis benchmarked against retail competitors, brands, NGO criteria, and industry association criteria to identify best-in-class strategies. Furthermore, it deployed a Business Process Outsource (BPO) IT solution to support a pilot project in supply chain engagement, data collection and analysis. This pilot project was used to inform a key product category’s readiness for expanded data collection and for the establishment of standards. This project, completed within the strategy and policy development phase itself, helped to inform the overall philosophy for the chemical policy and more detailed action planning around transparency, chemical management, and innovation.

 

4. Conduct stakeholder engagement

A chemical policy will ultimately impact many aspects of an organization, both within its operating boundaries and beyond. Therefore, identifying and engaging key stakeholders  ensures that expectations are clear and that any potential road-blocks are addressed and managed from the outset.

Implementing a chemical policy will by default require engaging with internal stakeholders across sourcing, quality, merchandising, and product development. It also impacts many external stakeholders, including suppliers, supply chain partners, NGOs, trade associations and consumers. In particular, suppliers are integral to the success of a retailer’s chemical policy objectives since they will likely be asked to collect and/or report more data, so Anthesis recommends considering the right strategy for engaging with suppliers.

Collaboration with key stakeholders is necessary to define policy components, and to align with a company’s corporate sustainability goals and existing initiatives during the development of the policy. Continuous engagement with key stakeholders has and will be an essential component during the implementation of the chemical policy to reach policy objectives.

 

5. Ensure subject matter expertise

Companies that have tried to implement a chemical policy without relevant chemical, supply chain, and stakeholder engagement expertise typically end up falling short of the intended outcomes.

For retailers, it is recommended to have both internal and external subject matter experts (SMEs). Anthesis is able to provide both industry insight through its network as well as internal support to interpret those insights alongside other key internal SMEs. Internal experts are critical to understanding the business processes and can effectively engage more regularly with stakeholders. External subject matter expertise will ensure that your company focuses on the most relevant chemicals, avoids regrettable substitutions, and properly engages key stakeholders across the value chain.

 

Navigating the road to a successful chemical policy implementation isn’t easy, but you can ensure you’ve addressed the most crucial components by considering the tactics discussed in this blog.

For more information about how Anthesis can support in the development and implementation of a chemical policy, get in touch with Jessica Onyshko, Principal Consultant in Sustainable Chemistry.

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