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TJX announces new restrictions on toxic chemicals as part of new chemicals strategy

Last month, TJX—the parent company of TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Home Goods, and Sierra Trading Post—announced on its website it is developing an expanded “Chemical Management” strategy

The new program, which follows more than three years of advocacy by the Mind the Store campaign, Clean Water Action, Trillium Asset Management, First Affirmative Financial Network, and the Investor Environmental Health Network, takes an important step forward towards protecting customers, workers, and the environment from toxic chemical exposure, and paves the way for future action. 

Highlights of TJX’s new chemical management strategy

Holding TJX accountable for their failing scoreThe company shared that: “We have heard from our investors and other stakeholders that they care about our Company’s approach to the management of chemicals in the products we sell and in our operations. We are committed to taking steps to expand our understanding of what is feasible for our business model to manage “chemicals of concern” in our operations as well as the products we sell over the short, medium, and longer term.” 

Specifically, the company announced in December it is now:

  • Eliminating bisphenols, such as BPA and BPS, as a class in thermal register receipt paper across all of its U.S. retail brands in 2021; 

  • Eliminating per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from its compostable food service-ware in its U.S. corporate office cafeterias;

  • Working to eliminate polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic from the packaging of certain bedding products by 2025;

  • Developing policies limiting chemicals of concern in certain products its sells and in its operations, planning to publish these policies in late 2021. 

  • Utilizing the framework of the Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) to identify areas of focus for TJX’s future policy development. By utilizing the CFP framework companies are better able to evaluate their chemicals management systems against best practices, measure their chemical footprint, and reduce it by moving away from chemicals of high concern towards safer alternatives. The CFP is a program of Clean Production Action

  • Engaging an outside expert to conduct a review of chemicals management for certain personal care products. The company states: “This includes peer benchmarking, a review of credible third-party certifications, and an overview of chemicals of concern in these products.” 

  • Establing “Chemicals Management” as a strategic priority within its Global Environmental Sustainability Committee (GESC). The company has assigned a sub-committee to lead the assessment of potential areas to limit chemicals of concern across its global business.

These actions will begin to drive toxic chemicals out of TJX’s operations and clearly demonstrates that the company is serious about making headway to develop and implement a broader safer chemicals management program. 

Why this matters

Hazardous chemicals can impose a heavy burden on workers, consumers, communities and the environment in the form of chronic diseases, toxic pollution, health care costs, lost productivity, and decreased quality of life. 

As a major retailer, TJX’s actions can have a big impact on global supply chains. The company had annual revenue  (2020) of approximately $41 billion, more than 4,000 stores, 200,000 associates, and sources globally from more than 21,000 vendors of apparel, footwear, accessories, home goods, personal care, and other product categories.

By establishing a path to reduce its chemical footprint and using its leverage to reduce risk and move toward safer chemicals, TJX can better safeguard the health and well-being of associates, customers and communities it serves.

TJX’s new commitment follows advocacy from NGOs, investors, and TJX customers

Three years in a row, TJX has received an “F” in the Who’s Minding the Store? retailer report card. In Massachusetts, where TJX is headquartered, advocates with Clean Water Action, Don’t Take that Receipt!, and the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow have pressed the company to take action on toxic chemicals through a sign-on letter from 30 organizations, customer visits to TJX stores, hundreds of letters from customers, and attendance at the 2019 TJX shareholder meeting

After dialogue reached an impasse in 2020, Trillium and First Affirmative filed a shareholder resolution asking the company to report if and how it plans to reduce its chemical footprint. A whopping 44.5% of TJX Companies shareholders voted for this groundbreaking shareholder resolution at the company’s annual general meeting in June of 2020.

And TJX’s new commitments come just a few months in advance of the fifth annual Mind the Store retailer report card being released in the first quarter of this year.

Opportunities for continuous improvement

In the year and years ahead, TJX can continue to improve on these initial steps. Here are our recommendations for ways in which TJX can further address and reduce its chemical footprint:

  • Adopt a formal safer chemicals policy;

  • Adopt restricted substance lists (RSLs) and manufacturing restricted substance lists (MRSLs) for other key product categories – especially apparel and other textiles. The company can begin by initially focusing on private label brands and expand to brand-name products over time;

  • Prioritize action on key classes of toxic chemicals in apparel and other textiles—starting with PFAS, halogenated flame retardants and other toxic flame retardants, and ortho-phthalates;

  • Reduce and eliminate the use of PVC and other highly hazardous plastics in products and packaging;

  • Set public-facing quantifiable goals to reduce chemicals of concern in its products, packaging, and global supply chains;

  • Become a signatory to the CFP and participate in the CFP survey in 2021; and

  • Publicly disclose progress in implementing its chemicals management strategy.

We are pleased TJX is taking toxic chemical risks seriously and look forward to working with them to make progress in the year ahead.

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Susan Baker is a Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium; Elizabeth Saunders is Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action; Mike Schade is the Mind the Store campaign director; and Kayla Williams is the Communications Coordinator and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Lead for Clean Production Action.

Important Disclosure: This is not a recommendation to buy or sell any of the securities mentioned. It should not be assumed that investments in such securities have been or will be profitable. The specific securities were selected on an objective basis and do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients.