Best Buy Co., Inc., headquartered in Richfield, Minnesota, is the world’s largest multinational consumer electronics retailer, with over 1,400 stores and 2011 U.S. retail sales of $37,551,000—the 9th highest nationally.[1] Best Buy sells consumer electronics, appliances, computing and mobile phone products, entertainment products, and a range of other items including furniture, luggage, and children’s toys and games.

With great market power comes great responsibility.

Many electronic devices contain dangerous substances that can contaminate land and water and put workers and the public at risk. Some of these include toxic heavy metals like mercury, lead, cadmium, and beryllium, hazardous chemicals like brominated flame retardants, and materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) that can leach toxic plasticizers. The disposal of electronic waste presents great challenges and public health risks. For example, even low-level exposure to lead and mercury can be harmful to children and pregnant women.[2]

We appreciate the efforts Best Buy has already taken to reduce some of these negative environmental and public health impacts. For example we applaud the company’s robust electronics recycling program and action to eliminate several hundred tons of PVC plastic and other plastic from their Exclusive Brands packaging. While these are great steps towards eliminating hazardous chemicals, more must be done.

We are calling on Best Buy to work with their suppliers to reduce, eliminate, or safely substitute the Hazardous 100+ chemicals.


What is Best Buy doing to get tough on toxics?

Internal policy on chemicals?

Product stewardship of one of four areas of focus of Best Buy’s sustainability strategy: “Best Buy will provide leadership in our industry across the lifecycle of our products, from product design to end-of-use solutions.”[3]

Although Best Buy has reduced PVC packaging in its private label products, its 2011 sustainability report has no explicit chemicals policy or a plan to restrict use of hazardous chemicals in the products they sell. [4]

Recycling initiative

Best Buy has been applauded for their robust electronics recycling program. All stores serve as drop off sites for used electronics at the end of their life cycle—not only for Best Buy products, but for products purchased at other retailers as well.

Private label products: PVC and plastic reduction

Over 2012, Best Buy eliminated 803 tons of PVC plastic and 713 tons of other plastic from its Exclusive Brands packaging. They also commit to using recycled materials, non-solvent coatings, and organic inks when possible.[5]

Packaging commitment

Best Buy aims to eliminate 100 percent of packaging materials considered toxic or that create challenges in material-recovery processes, though they have not announced a timeline for this process.[6]

Exploring bio-based materials

Best Buy is currently investigating packaging alternatives, including packaging made from bio-based plastics and other non-traditional materials.[7]

In their own words…

“We will look for ways to expand our assortment of sustainability solutions that meet customer’s needs and expectations—through our own Exclusive Brands product lines and from our vendor partners. We will seek products that consume less energy, use less toxic material and are constructed of recycled and recyclable material.”[8]
-2011 corporate social responsibility report

Sources:

[1] National Retailers Federation, 2012. “2012 Top 100 Retailers.”


[2] National Center for Health Statistics, 2010. “Blood Lead and Mercury Levels in Pregnant Women in the United States, 2003–2008.


[3] Best Buy, 2011. “Our World, Connected: Fiscal 2011 Sustainability Report.”


[4] Ibid.


[5] Retail Industry Leaders Association, 2012. “2012 Retail Sustainability Report.”


[6] Best Buy, 2012. http://sustainability.bby.com/management-approach/sustainable-solutions/product-design-packaging/


[7] Ibid.


[8] Best Buy, 2010. “Annual Fiscal Sustainability Report.”