TJX must move away from harmful chemicals, say advocates at annual shareholder meeting
FRAMINGHAM, Mass.— Today, Clean Water Action joined advocates and consumers at the TJX annual shareholder meeting to ask the retailer to improve its efforts to tackle toxic chemicals. TJX is the owner of Marshalls, T.J.Maxx, Sierra Trading Post, and Home Goods. Environmental health activists and consumers want the Framingham-based company to develop a robust safer chemicals policy and to protect customers and workers from toxic chemicals, such as PFAS, phthalates, and bisphenols, in its products and stores.
In both 2017 and 2018, TJX received an “F” in a ranking by the national Mind the Store campaign, which asks big retailers to address toxic chemicals in consumer products. The annual report card, “Who’s Minding the Store?,” assigned grades based on publicly available information about retailer chemical policies and self-reported information concerning retailer practices. TJX competitors Target and Walmart received some of the highest grades, earning an A and A- respectively.
After the publication of the 2017 report card, the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, an alliance of environmental, public health, faith-based and science organizations, wrote TJX a letter signed by 29 Massachusetts organizations urging it to improve its actions to address the community’s concerns. However, the company has not responded to the organizations’ request. In contrast, last year, Target announced a new chemicals policy and specific goals to remove chemicals of concern, including phthalates, perfluorinated chemicals, and toxic flame retardants, from products.
Elizabeth Saunders, Massachusetts Director for Clean Water Action who attended the shareholder meeting, said, “Companies should switch from toxic to safer chemicals just as they’re switching to sustainable practices – it’s good for business, and communities want it. As a major player in the industry, TJX should set an example through the adoption of a safer chemicals policy.”
TJX has made a niche for itself as a retailer for all shoppers; it sells products of all kinds at affordable prices. But advocates are concerned that too many of those products contain chemicals linked to serious health problems. Toxic chemicals, such as bisphenols (eg: BPS), per- and polyfluoroalkyls substances (PFAS) and phthalates, may be found in many of the products TJX sells, such as foodware, textiles, and personal care products. Like many retailers, TJX stores’ receipts are also coated with BPS. Exposure to these chemicals from our everyday products has been linked to nervous system damage, decreased fertility, and cancer. Kids and infants are particularly vulnerable to exposure since they’re undergoing critical periods of growth and development.
Toxic bisphenols, such as BPS, are used as a coating on receipts. It literally rubs off onto your skin with contact and enters the body. Exposure to certain bisphenols have been linked to breast cancer, reproductive disorders, heart and liver problems, asthma, obesity, depression, and more. “We are asking TJX to switch to safer phenol-free receipt paper, and adopt an electronic-receipt system. These changes would be aligned with TJX’s philosophy of ‘smart for business, good for the world,’ described by CEO Ernie Herrman,” stated meeting attendee Ali Pinschmidt, Director of Don't Take That Receipt!, an advocacy group in Western MA.
People in low-income communities often shop at stores like T.J.Maxx or Marshalls for their affordable prices and those communities are often the last to have access to affordable safer alternatives. “TJX is not unique in selling toxic products, but it’s lagging behind many of its peers in addressing the problem,” said meeting attendee Kadineyse Paz, member of the Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow.
There has been significant movement by companies nationwide to adopt more comprehensive corporate policies. Walmart and Target have adopted chemicals policies. They have identified over 2,000 chemicals of concern and are asking suppliers to disclose and work to reduce, eliminate and safely substitute. The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is asking that TJX take action to eliminate harmful chemicals and establish a corporate chemical policy.
To date, TJX has not made any public commitment to addressing chemicals of concern in its supply chain at the scale of comparable retailers. The company’s efforts to move away from harmful chemicals must improve, said advocates at the TJX annual shareholder meeting.
Advocates attended the meeting as part of the national Mind the Store campaign. The campaign challenges big retailers to eliminate toxic chemicals and substitute safer alternatives.
The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow is a coalition of public health, labor, environmental, civic, science and health care organizations in Massachusetts working to prevent harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. www.healthytomorrow.org
Since our founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. We will protect clean water in the face of attacks from a polluter friendly Administration. www.cleanwater.org/ma