Toxic Talk and Labels

Target, One of the World's Biggest Retailers, Sets New Policy for Safety and Reduction of Chemicals in Personal Care

+ Pamela Friedman

TargetGuess what, Cinco Vidas readers? We’re witnessing a domino effect in the personal care market, and I bet a lot of you have been a part of it.

When you choose to spend your hard-earned dollars on products that are safe, nourishing, and natural, you send a clear message to those companies that are using cheap, readily available synthetic chemicals that may be harmful to our skin and our health.

In September, I told you that Walmart had pledged to reduce 10 potentially harmful chemicals from personal care products sold in their stores. This, after Johnson & Johnson pledged to remove similar chemicals from their products by 2015, and Proctor & Gamble agreed to reduce levels of harmful chemicals from its laundry products.

Now, Target is stepping up to the plate. In a recent announcement, they revealed significant changes to their product safety standards.

Target Promises Higher Safety Standards

In mid-October, Target revealed details of its new “Sustainable Product Standard.” This is a program the company put in place to assess the safety of the household cleaners, personal care products, and baby care products sold in its stores. According to the new policy, the store will be making the following changes:

  • Full disclosure: Target wants full disclosure of all ingredients in these products. That means that household cleaners, for example, which often withhold a list of ingredients, will now be required to name the ingredients in products sold in Target stores. Personal care products listing the word “fragrance,” which often stands for a chemical cocktail protected under trade secret laws, will also be required to disclose the ingredients used to create the fragrance.
  • Evaluation: Using the UL Transparency Platform, powered by GoodGuide, the store will collect information from vendors and evaluate products against the standard. Products will then receive a score from 0 to 100, with the safer and more sustainable products having a higher score. (For each harmful ingredient found, the product loses points.)
  • Chemicals: Target is concerned about 1,600 potentially harmful chemicals that may pose human health risks, and 1,500 that threaten water quality, based on toxic regulatory standards created by California and the European Union. Products will be rated as to how many of these concerning ingredients are in their products.
  • Environmentally friendly: Packaging is also a concern-Target will dock points if the product was tested on animals, and will grant points for environmentally friendly packaging.
  • Benefits for the good ones: Those products that pass Targets minimum safety standard will receive advertising benefits and better store placement.

Change is Coming!

We were so excited here at Cinco Vidas to hear this announcement. Target has gone even further than Walmart and other companies by demanding a new level of disclosure when it comes to ingredients. This is a big push in transparency, and will finally give consumers the information they need to avoid allergic reactions, asthma symptoms, and more.

“We want our guests to feel confident in making the best product choices for their families,” said Target spokeswoman Jessica Stevens. She added that the store wants to push for product innovation and encourage suppliers to come up with better alternatives.

With this move, Target is likely to encourage other companies to follow in its footsteps with changes of their own. We may soon reach a tipping point where the elimination of potentially harmful chemicals becomes the norm-but we’re not there yet. Neither have we reached the point where everyone includes only those ingredients that benefit the body in personal care products, but one step at a time, right?

In the meantime, keep using your purchasing power to support those companies who are already making the right choices-and watch for the next domino to fall!

What do you think of Target’s announcement? Please share your thoughts.

Picture courtesy renjith krishnan via


Heather Somerville, “Target unveils sweeping changes to product safety standards,” San Jose Mercury News, October 16, 2013,

“Target Sustainable Product Standard,” Corporate Target,

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