New study: Nearly 70% of companies surveyed over 5 years have improved toxic chemical safety programs

Media Contacts
Gina Werdel


WASHINGTONMind the Store campaign, U.S. PIRG Education Fund and other partners released a report Tuesday that found significant chemical safety policy improvements among major retailers. Compared to their first evaluation dating as far back as 2016, the report found nearly 70 percent of companies surveyed had improved their chemical safety programs.

“We applaud retail leaders for stepping up to drive harmful chemicals out of consumer products and packaging,” said report co-author and Mind the Store Campaign Director Mike Schade. “Despite a global pandemic and incredibly challenging year, retailers have continued to make substantial progress in reducing and eliminating classes of toxic chemicals like PFAS.”

The study gave six retailers scores of A- or above. For the first time, Sephora and Whole Foods Market were awarded A grades and joined consistent high performers Apple and Target, each with an A+, and IKEA and Walmart, each with an A-. 

The beauty and personal care sector showed significant improvement compared to other retail sectors. Ulta Beauty was the most improved retailer in the last year, earning a C- grade as compared with its F result in 2019. Sephora has shown the greatest improvement since its first evaluation. In this report, it earned an A, up from a D in 2017.

“Retailers are really the last line of defense between the everyday consumer and products containing toxic chemicals,” said Gina Werdel, U.S. PIRG’s Make It Toxic-Free Campaign Associate. “With this report, it’s clear that many of these companies are stepping up to accept that responsibility. The rest of the supply chain, including product manufacturers, should do the same to protect their consumers.”

The study also finds that corporate bans and restrictions around toxic PFAS “forever chemicals in food packaging have grown considerably since years past. Of 50 retailers surveyed, 12 have pledged to eliminate or reduce PFAS in food packaging, which impacts more than 65,000 stores worldwide. Meanwhile, some major fast-food and grocery retailers, such as Burger King and Kroger, have not taken sufficient action on PFAS in food packaging. 

“Removing PFAS from food packaging should be a no brainer. Cancer, liver disease and birth defects are not acceptable risks of eating lunch. We know there are alternatives — McDonald’s, Sweetgreen, Freshii, CAVA and others have started to make the shift to safer alternatives,” explains Danielle Melgar, U.S. PIRG’s Ban Toxic PFAS Advocate. “It’s time for other retailers and restaurants to follow suit.”

The fifth annual Who’s Minding the Store? A Report Card on Retailer Actions to Eliminate Toxic Chemicals evaluates and grades the chemical policies and practices of 50 retail chains covering more than 200,000 stores in the U.S. and Canada. 

To access the full retailer report card, visit