Corporate self-regulation and its implications on the chemicals industry
When we normally think about the terms 'regulation' and 'industry', it is safe to assume that one is affecting the other, and the hierarchy between those two terms is very clear; The industry is legally obligated to comply with the regulation, which is set by an appropriate, authorized governmental body. Well, how can the two co-exist in the form of self-regulation – a company, a part of the industry, that regulates itself?
Giant retailers in the United States are beginning to set the tone for the chemicals industry by implementing self-regulating policies. The first to do so was Walmart. It's policy for sustainable chemistry in consumer products was first introduced back in 2013, and has since managed to make a major breakthrough: In 2016, the company publicly announced they have successfully reduced 95% of high-priority chemicals by weight from products sold in the US.
Earlier this month, Target has published its own chemicals policy. Being the second largest retailer in the country (Walmart being the first), the corporation joins the Walmart phenomena in self-regulating their own products to a higher standard than the one set out by the Environmental Defense Agency itself, to which they are legally bounded to comply. These policies have a direct effect on the products' suppliers, having to adjust their products to the retailers' requirements.
Effectively, it is safe to predict that the specific chemicals the two major retailers seek to eliminate from household products will be manufactured in decreasing quantities, for the very least within the local industry. Additionally, Target joining Walmart might set a trend in motion, setting the bar for other retailers within the country or perhaps even worldwide, and thus having a larger impact on the chemicals industry.
Several NGOs have replied affirmatively to the policy changes and future schedules set by Target and Walmart alike, among those are the SCHF (Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families) and the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund), which has also worked closely with Walmart on its sustainability goals. They act as stakeholders and seem to have an impact on policy making, while also providing assistance to the companies as they implement the changes.
As for the future, Target has also reported its commitment to invest up to 5 million U.S. Dollars in "greener chemistry innovation" by 2022. “Eliminating hazardous chemicals from the consumer product chain is half the battle; promoting the development or discovery of safer alternatives and enabling their usability in products is as important.", said Ms. Boma Brown-West, senior manager of consumer health at the EDF.
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