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June 30, 2015
Benchmarking Tool for Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products Launched
    by Robert Kropp

The Chemical Footprint Project, backed by investors and corporations representing more than $1 trillion in investing and purchasing power, is the first tool for benchmarking corporate chemical use and management.

A recently published study confirmed that “the cumulative effects of individual (non-carcinogenic) chemicals acting on different pathways, and a variety of related systems, organs, tissues and cells could plausibly conspire to produce carcinogenic synergies.” And, while initiatives addressing the presence of toxic chemicals exist—here in Vermont, for example, the Toxics in Packaging Clearinghouse (TPCH) is a resource for companies seeking information on toxics in packaging requirements—many corporations persist in including hazardous chemicals in consumer products.

Additionally, investors have increasingly come to rely on the benchmarking of corporations on aspects of their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) performance. Benchmarks that compare corporate performance in the areas of hydraulic fracturing, human rights, and access to medicine to name but three of several examples, have helped investors more accurately assess the risks associated with corporate performance that lags that of industry peers.

Until this month, however, there existed no such benchmark for comparing the corporate use of toxic chemicals in their products. Launched on June 19th, the
Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) seeks to fill that void, as it is “the first-ever common metric for publicly benchmarking chemical use and management.” Created by Clean Production Action and the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production and Pure Strategies, the initiative already enjoys the support of investors and corporations, with some $1.1 trillion in investing and purchasing power backing it at present.

According to a press release, the CFP requests information from corporations in four key areas:
1. Management: what are a company’s chemical policies and strategies;
2. Inventory: how much a company knows about chemicals in its products;
3. Footprint: what is a company’s chemical footprint and what steps are being taken to substitute toxic chemicals with safer alternatives; and
4. Disclosure: how much information on chemicals the company publicly discloses.

Several of the investment firms associated with the initiative are will be familiar to readers of Jeremy Cote of
Trillium Asset Management stated, “The Chemical Footprint Project is a tremendous tool for reducing uncertainty in the marketplace when it comes to sustainable investment. The self-assessment process spotlights supply chain risks and allows for thorough and conscientious chemical management. Integrating this information into our investment process helps to identify industry leaders and to reduce company specific risk in our portfolios.”

Added Constantina Bichta of
Boston Common Asset Management, “The CFP is an extraordinary new tool in that it provides investors with the means to benchmark a company’s performance relative to peers and identify leading companies.”

And Richard Liroff, the Executive Director of the
Investor Environmental Health Network
—whose benchmarking of companies engaged in hydraulic fracturing has been of critical importance in bringing the risks associated with the controversial practice to both investors and society at large—said, “Now we have a tool that brands can use to measure and track their progress in reducing chemical risks – the financial liabilities companies face in using toxic chemicals in their products and supply chains.”

Earlier this year, IEHN joined with the American Sustainable Business Council in calling on the US Congress to make needed improvements to the proposed Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act.

“As currently written,” a letter signed by investors representing $20 billion in assets under management stated, “the bill preempts states from taking actions essential to eliminate chemical hazards, and diverts EPA resources to focus on lower priority chemicals, when it should instead push EPA to urgently address chemicals that persist and build up in the environment.”


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