Macy’s – Product Stewardship Policy (2009)
Outcome: Successfully Withdrawn
In recent years, hazardous chemicals in products have become a high profile concern for consumers, as evidenced by widespread attention to lead in toys, bibs and lipstick; bisphenol-A in polycarbonate baby bottles; and phthalates and other chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products.
Chemicals in products have become a growing concern for legislators and regulators as well, as evidenced by state legislation outlawing brominated flame retardants, mercury, and phthalates in selected products.
Polyvinyl chloride is one type of plastic that can be used in packaging and product. Other major retailers, principally Wal-Mart, Target, Sears, K-Mart, and JC Penney, have made public commitments to reduce or eliminate PVC in packaging and products.
Product Stewardship has been defined by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as “a principle that directs all actors in the life cycle of a product to minimize the impacts of that product on the environment”. Multi-line retailers have begun to recognize an explicit need to exercise better product stewardship with respect to chemicals in their products, since consumers are increasingly making product choices based on chemicals in products, even in the absence of formal regulation.
Wal-Mart has adopted preferred chemical principles, indicating that it will favor products that do not contain chemicals harmful to human health, such as those that cause cancer, damage genetic material, or affect reproduction or the unborn. Wal-Mart’s principles also favor products that are not harmful to the environment, such as those that do not break down in the environment, build up in food webs, or cause death or damage to organisms in the environment.
Wal-Mart is developing a product screening tool that will identify potential hazards and risks associated with certain chemicals that will help buyers and suppliers bring to market products that contain safer alternatives.
JCPenney has established a Product Stewardship Committee whose tasks include anticipating environmental and/or safety issues associated with products it sells, and identifying alternatives. The company’s initial priorities are polyvinyl chloride and lead.
Macy’s believes “that contributing to a more sustainable environment is good business practice and the right thing to do for future generations.”
Macy’s has pledged itself “to using resources more efficiently” and providing “eco-friendly” products “within the bounds of good business decision-making.
Shareholders request that the Board publish a Progress Report to shareholders on Macy’s policies regarding product stewardship, at reasonable expense and omitting proprietary information, by December 1, 2009. This report should summarize options for new initiatives that management can or will take to achieve effective product stewardship, and indicate which of those initiatives or actions are beyond that required by law
Proponents believe that the product stewardship report should discuss the impact of the company’s policies and practices on, among other things, materials and energy consumption, and public and consumer health. Proponents believe that publicly responding to these concerns not only has significant environmental and health benefits, but also can help to build public trust, protect brand reputation, and safeguard and grow market share.