More than ever, people want to know more about the food and other products they buy. Not only do they expect them to be safe, but also, they want to know how they were made, and with what ingredients and materials. Yet the flood of information readily available from experts and peers, through the media or at the stroke of a keypad, can often confuse or concern as much as inform.
Walmart aspires to help make choices easier and more transparent for people. We serve hundreds of millions of customers every year, and we advocate for them among suppliers for the kinds of products they want and need. Not only are we working every day to enhance product safety, but also, we're collaborating with others to reduce chemicals of concern and promote animal welfare. We’re also working with government agencies and others within the retail industry to provide better standards for clear, transparent information about products.
Promoting transparency and product quality is good for business as well as society. Meeting customer needs for transparency and product quality drives innovation in product development and production, which in turn drives sales and fosters customer trust.
In the following discussion, we highlight our progress in three strategies to promote transparency and quality of products:
- Enhancing food and general merchandise product safety
- Reducing chemicals of concern
- Promoting animal welfare
Enhancing food and product safety
Walmart is committed to selling food and products that meet high standards for safety. We are also striving to be transparent about the kinds of components and ingredients used to create them in the first place. Customers think a lot about what they put in and on their bodies. They deserve to know what’s in what they buy, and we are working on ways to help them make more informed buying decisions.
Increasing food safety and transparency
When it comes to the food that we sell, Walmart strives to make it affordable while continually raising the bar on food safety. Today, average customers are further removed than ever from food production. Yet customers are also more interested than they were in recent decades in understanding where their food comes from, what’s in it and how it’s made.
Walmart welcomes this development. We’re responding by requiring greater transparency and information about the food we sell. Our job is not just to have this information available, but to make it accessible for customers to understand and use in their shopping decisions. In doing so, we help meet the needs of our customers, and we help create demand for a more sustainable supply of food.
To increase food safety and transparency, Walmart collaborates closely with our supply chain partners. We encourage upstream accountability by communicating our policies and standards and by establishing consistency within global requirements and
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), deaths, injuries and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than
$1 trillion annually. As the world’s largest retailer, in 2015 we worked to positively improve these numbers through our robust product compliance program.
We’re committed to selling products that comply with applicable safety laws and regulations. However, existing laws and regulations are the minimum level of safety we require. In some instances, we create our own Walmart- and Sam’s Club-specific requirements that exceed regulatory requirements. In 2015, we focused on expanding our ability to identify and monitor supplier and product compliance and to hold suppliers accountable for adhering to our standards. Our focused attention on product compliance across our supply chain gives our customers trust in the items we sell.
We value the trust of our customers. We work to preserve that trust by raising our customers’ and members’ awareness of product risks and by sourcing safe and affordable merchandise to help our customers save money and
Compliance with applicable requirements is only part of the product safety equation. That’s why, in 2015, we participated in several national consumer education campaigns in collaboration with the U.S. government on areas of concern for federal agencies. We focused specifically on swimming pool safety, lead poison prevention and the Anchor It campaign to prevent furniture and television tip-over accidents.
From October 2014 through September 2015, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission conducted nearly 415 consumer product recalls involving approximately 68 million units. On occasion, one of these recalls would involve a product sold at Walmart or Sam’s Club. When this happened, we worked to remove the product, implement sales blocks at the register and notify our customers and members
Reducing chemicals of concern
Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club have worked with Environmental Defense Fund and a range of other NGOs, suppliers, academics, government and industry stakeholders to develop a company policy on sustainable chemistry for the formulated consumable products that we sell. Our customers expect that the products they buy are safe, affordable and sustainable, and we’re striving to meet those expectations. We’re working with suppliers to reformulate household cleaning, personal care, baby, pet, beauty and cosmetic products to remove, reduce and restrict the use of priority chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives.
To do this, Walmart is communicating with our suppliers regarding our expectations, and we’re collaborating with stakeholders to accelerate the development of safer ingredients and improve transparency. When we set our Sustainable Chemistry Policy in place, we knew that effective measurement would be necessary to assess our progress and identify areas of improvement. It's not an easy task. Understanding a business chemical footprint is an evolving area and involves many factors, not the least of which is the need to protect suppliers’ proprietary information. Through close collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund, we have an initial framework for evaluating our chemical footprint using UL’s WERCSmart™ platform for in-scope formulated consumable products. We started with quantitative indicators because we believe that, over time, they will adequately inform us about our policy’s effectiveness in achieving our goals of increasing ingredient transparency and advancing the safer formulations of products.
Disclosing ingredients to customers
Walmart’s sustainable chemistry policy helps customers learn what’s in personal care and household products like baby lotion, cleaners and pet shampoo. In 2015, we started listing those ingredients on Walmart.com for our private brands. We also asked national brand suppliers like Procter & Gamble and Revlon to list product ingredients on their own websites, giving access to this information in multiple locations, so customers can make more informed choices. This year, we engaged 76 percent of suppliers queried through our Sustainability Index to report on their online ingredient disclosure practices. Of those, 78 percent reported that they disclose ingredients online for all their products according to a nationally recognized standard.
Safer product formulations
In coordination with scientific experts and industry groups, Walmart has identified high priority chemicals (HPCs) that we are seeking to phase out of the products we sell. In our Sustainable Chemistry Policy, we have initially focused our attention on these substances, as they possess certain properties that can affect human health or the environment. Our goal is to reduce, restrict and eliminate the use of HPCs by using informed substitution principles. We have been asking our suppliers to reformulate their products to meet our expectations. When suppliers are unable to remove HPCs, we ask them to develop time-bound action plans to reduce, restrict and eliminate usage as well as to engage in broad stakeholder initiatives to work toward industry-wide solutions. To date, we have successfully removed 95 percent of HPCs by volume weight from the products we sell in Walmart U.S. that are in the scope of our policy.
Designating “Safer Choice” products
The combination of safety, affordability and product performance is very important to Walmart. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice certification program helps consumers, businesses and purchasers find products that perform well and that are designed to be safer for human health and the environment. Since we’ve announced our policy, we’ve begun adding Safer Choice certification to our private brand products, and we will continue our work to offer even more of these products to our customers.
It's clear that there is still plenty of work ahead, but we're confident that we'll continue
to make progress in the coming years. We remain committed to our Sustainable Chemistry Policy as a means of improving our chemical footprint. We'll refine and continue to measure our progress and pinpoint key opportunities for improvement.
For more details about the Walmart Sustainable Chemistry Policy and our chemical footprint
methodology, please visit walmartsustainabilityhub.com.
Promoting animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use
Walmart believes that animals should be treated humanely throughout their lives and that antibiotics should be used responsibly to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics in human and veterinary medicine. In May 2015 we announced our positions on farm animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use.* Walmart expects that its suppliers do not tolerate animal abuse.
Walmart supports the globally recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
We are committed to working with suppliers and other organizations to implement practices consistent with these freedoms and with the judicious use of antibiotics. We’re asking our suppliers to eliminate their use of antibiotics for growth promotion and to publicly report antibiotics use.
With the recent release of our egg position, we have taken the first step in implementing our animal welfare position through our supply chain. Over the coming year, we will be working to develop similar category-specific positions with comprehensive and timebound commitments across our meat and dairy business.
In addition to our company commitments, we applaud our suppliers and others who have made significant contributions to advancing animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use this year. They include:
- The National Milk Producers Federation made several notable changes in the National Dairy Farmers Assessing Responsible Management (FARM) Program version 3.0, including expediting the timeline for eliminating the practice of tail docking of dairy cattle from 2022 to January 1, 2017. Since January 2014, Dairy Farmers of America enrolled more than 8,000 member farms in the FARM program, representing more than 95 percent of member milk production
- Cargill, Smithfield Foods and Tyson, which have shown leadership in reducing use of antibiotics in beef, pork and chicken, respectively, in advance of a Food and Drug Administration directive calling for an end to using medically important antibiotics for growth production
One of the challenges in this space is the lack of visibility and data on current practices. We've developed an animal welfare and antibiotics survey that we're asking our suppliers to complete. Our goal is to work with The Sustainability Consortium and industry and nonprofits to integrate animal welfare metrics into our Sustainability Index as we move ahead.