Staples, Hewlett-Packard, Marriott, Timberland, Method and Seventh Generation are among the companies whose senior environmental staff have signed onto the Commons Principles for Alternatives Assessment, a framework developed by the Environmental Defense Fund, BizNGO, Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and Massachusetts Toxics Use Reduction Institute.
Staples senior scientist and vice president Roger McFadden said the principles help to meet companies’ need for a consistent and replicable framework for alternatives assessments, starting from the inherent hazards of chemicals and progressing into economic and broader environmental concerns. He said this will help inform firms’ materials selection, reduce risks and drive innovation.
The groups behind the framework cite multiple drivers for products made with safer chemicals, including consumer demand and mounting scientific evidence. They point out that Walmart and Target recently announced initiatives reflecting the Common Principles.
The groups not explicitly mention another big driver, California’s Safer Consumer Products regulations, which will require manufacturers of certain products to carry out alternative analyses. Companies such as Method, Seventh Generation and even Hewlett-Packard may stand to benefit from the regulations if they can convince the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to pick products that they already know how to formulate without harmful chemicals. Hopefully, the framework will help companies to comply.
Despite the explicit acknowledgment, the shadow of these looming requirements loomed over the Common Principles announcement. “We see The Principles as embodying the race to the top among businesses, where increased transparency, reduced hazard, and taking action are core to any comprehensive chemical management program,” said Mark Rossi, Chair of BizNGO – sounding very much like former DTSC director and current Alston & Bird partner Maureen Gorsen, who has bemoaned the way the Safer Consumer Products initiative has turned out.
“There were alternative regulatory designs that could have created broad standards that everybody would be racing towards, stimulating broad interest in green chemistries and new product designs,” she told EL PRO, in a recent issue of EL Analysts. “Instead, the regulations build a narrow paperwork tunnel that product manufacturers must go through, and the big winners will be the bureaucrats reviewing that paperwork, not the environment or a green chemistry future.”
The 100+ Common Principles signatories include:
- Roger McFadden, VP, senior scientist, Staples
- Helen Holder, MS, corporate materials selection manager, Hewlett-Packard
- Bradley Hugh Colton, MBA, strategic projects, global procurement, global operations services, Marriott International
- Mark Newton, VP, CSR & sustainability, Timberland
- Ryan Williams, director of sustainability, Method Products
- Martin Wolf, MA, director, product sustainability & authenticity, Seventh Generation