Seventh Generation to Lobby for Chemical Ingredient Disclosure

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By Pat Rizzuto

Seventh Generation, Inc. plans to lobby state legislators and the U.S. Congress in favor of legislation that would require companies to disclose chemicals in the products they make, the company’s director of sustainability said Jan. 10.

Martin Wolf, director of sustainability and authenticity for Seventh Generation, said the company plans to lobby for chemical disclosure legislation in California, Vermont and nationally. Seventh Generation, which makes laundry detergents, diapers, baby wipes and other household products marketed for consumers interested in sustainability, already discloses its ingredients through information on the label and online. Unilever purchased Seventh Generation in 2016.

“Customers don’t always like what [chemical] we use, but it starts a conversation. We can talk about why we use it. We may not win the consumer, but we build trust,” said Wolf during a webinar called “Chemical Transparency: The Value of Ingredient Disclosure.” Clean Production Action, a non-profit organization that advocates for green chemicals and sustainable products, organized the webinar.

Ingredients Expected to Be Disclosed

Roger McFadden, a former vice president at Staples, Inc., said it’s inevitable that chemicals in products will be disclosed.

“Get used to it. We live in an age of information, transparency and disclosure,” he said during the webinar.

“Consumers will dig, discover and divulge any and all information across the web,” said McFadden, who now runs his own Portland, Oregon-based consulting company firm called McFadden and Associates, LLC.

Companies can choose to get ahead of the curve and disclose those ingredients voluntarily, wait for regulations, or wait until the information is obtained through internet hacking or other means, McFadden said.

Companies can benefit from chemical disclosure legislation and regulations, he said.

Leveling the Playing Field

Laws and regulations can provide clear definitions of terms like “chemical” and “chemical disclosure,” he said.

Clear definitions create a level playing field on which businesses are evaluated consistently. They also ease supply chain communications, McFadden said.

Brand vulnerabilities that result when chemicals of concern are found in consumer products are reduced through disclosure, he said.

State Interest

State interest in chemical disclosure legislation is expected to continue in 2017, according to Sarah Doll, director of a chemical-policy group called Safer States.

Legislators in New York, California and elsewhere are expected to reintroduce disclosure bills that failed to pass in 2016, she previously told Bloomberg BNA.

Vermont adopted legislation in 2014 that required disclosure from companies making children’s products. The law applied to products containing any of 66 chemicals of high concern. Seventh Generation would like that disclosure to be expanded to additional products, Wolf said.

Bryan McGannon, policy director of the American Sustainable Business Council, has told Bloomberg BNA that his organization will work with congressional legislators to secure the reintroduction of the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act in 2017. Introduced in 2016 by Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who has since retired, the bill would have required cleaning products to disclose their ingredients, including components of dyes, fragrances, and preservatives making up 1 percent or more of the product.

Industry Efforts

Wolf said Seventh Generation also will work with the American Sustainable Business Coalition, BizNGO, a coalition of businesses and environmental organizations, and other groups to expand industry disclosure initiatives.

He pointed to a voluntary disclosure initiative launched by the American Cleaning Institute, the Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Canadian Consumer Specialty Products Association. The initiative is a good step but should be expanded, Wolf said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Pat Rizzuto in Washington, D.C., at prizzuto@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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