Walgreens responds to your letters

wgprotest2TCE Blog
Robin Schneider, Executive Director

It’s good to know that the letters you send to corporate or government decision-makers – hundreds or thousands of letters for each campaign – really do make a difference. One way we know this is true: our letter-writing targets often write back! They respond to you because they are concerned what their customers and voters think about their policies.

In May 2015, thousands of TCE supporters started sending letters to Walgreens calling on the company to get tough on toxic chemicals. We sent Walgreens this organizational letter urging the company to finalize its long-promised safe chemicals policy. Walgreens started writing back to our supporters within one month! Here are excerpts of their response letter and our perspective on the key points.

“Walgreens has a long history of action involving product safety and working to ensure that our owned-brand products meet federal, state, and local safety regulations and guidelines.”

Our response:
That is all well and good except for the fact that in the U.S. and in Texas, regulations and guidelines are not adequate. If those standards were doing the job, we would not have toxic products on any store shelves. Sadly, the government is asleep at the wheel when it comes to protecting Texans from unnecessary dangerous chemicals in consumer products. That’s why we need big retailers like Walgreens to step in and “mind the store.” Even some of Walgreens “owned-brand products” (or house brands) tested high for toxic chemicals, such as Nice! Powdered Vinyl Gloves and Pet Shoppe Tennis Ball Dog Toy.

“[W]e recognize that many of our customers are concerned about the chemical ingredients of the products they buy and bring into their homes.”

Our response:
It’s great that Walgreens is cares about their customers’ concerns. Every additional letter that our supporters write drives that point home. We hope the company will take action to get harmful chemicals out of products they sell.

“The [house brand] Ology features a variety of household and personal care products that are free of chemicals of concern.”

Our response:
It’s great that Walgreens has shown that it can work with suppliers to get rid of certain chemicals of concern. This shows that the company has the power to get toxic chemicals out of products on store shelves. We also appreciate that Walgreens lists the chemicals of concern that are not in Ology products on its website. Now they need to take the next step and broaden the list of safer products and the chemicals of concern so that all of its house branded products and brand name products are safer and free of toxic chemicals.

“We are making it our priority to continue our work with the vendor and retail community to address product ingredients and we recently initiated organizational changes that identify this as a key component of our company’s broader corporate social responsibility program. We are in the process of developing a Chemical Sustainability Program.”

wgprotestOur response:
We congratulate Walgreens for taking these first steps. Now we would like them to finish the job, and make sure their policy is as comprehensive and as protective of the health of our families and pets as possible. It should be transparent so that they can be held accountable to high standards of performance on this journey to safer products. A comprehensive approach by Walgreens should include these essential elements:

  • Disclosure of toxic chemicals (including in fragrances) in private label and brand name products to Walgreens and customers, especially for cosmetics, cleaning products, and other products for infants, children and women of childbearing age, and pet supplies;
  • Development of a comprehensive Restricted Substance List (RSL) for chemicals in private label and brand name products, especially for cosmetics, cleaning products, and other products for infants, children and women of childbearing age, and pet supplies;
  • Encouraging suppliers to reduce, phase out and eliminate chemicals of high concern in private label and brand name products;
  • Avoiding “regrettable substitutes”, to ensure that suppliers don’t transition from one dangerous chemical to another; and
  • Publicly reporting on benchmarks and a time frame for implementing their policy.

Walgreens is a company dedicated to health and wellness, and so it has a responsibility to ensure their products don’t contain toxic chemicals. In the months to come, we will be paying close attention to the chemicals policy they develop and announce. We want Walgreens to do what’s right for our families!