Costco Wholesale Corporation, headquartered in Issaquah, Washington, is the world’s largest membership warehouse chain, with over 400 stores and 2011 U.S. retail sales of $64,221,000—the 5th highest, nationally.[1] Costco’s warehouses carry a very wide range of products, including groceries, electronics and appliances, health and beauty, hardware, housewares, baby and children’s products, cleaning and institutional supplies, furniture, and apparel.

With great market power comes great responsibility.

Many consumer products contain chemicals that have been linked with chronic diseases and health conditions, including cancer, reduced fertility, learning and developmental disabilities, behavioral problems, obesity, and diabetes. For example, exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA), parabens, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances in cosmetics, personal care products, cleaners, and vinyl products have raised concerns from scientists about hormone disruption and asthma.[2]

While we applaud the efforts Costco has made in phasing out chemical fragrances and parabens from a number their own Kirkland store-brand personal care products and cosmetics—there is still so much more the company can do. Sure, identifying, eliminating, and avoiding the Hazardous 100+ chemicals is likely a complex challenge for a company as large as Costco—but just imagine the challenge that customers face each day as they try to navigate their way around thousands of product choices that may contain harmful chemicals. Costco has the power to relieve this burden and to protect their customers, their stakeholders, and the planet.

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


What is Costco doing to get tough on toxics?

Internal policy on chemicals?

In Costco’s most recent publicly available Sustainability Report (2009) they state that a key aspect of their Environmental Policy is to “Reduce the quantity and toxicity of materials used and the level of waste generated from our facilities and operations through reduction, reduce, renew and recycling policies.” However, the Report makes no mention of screening the products sold by Costco for chemicals of concern, nor are such policies publicly available on the company’s website as of April 2013.[3]

Nonetheless, according to 2012 correspondence with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Costco has taken limited actions described below to remove chemicals of concern from some of their private label products.

Phasing out Parabens

Costco has begun phasing parabens out of all of their signature “Kirkland” products. [4]

Eliminating Chemical fragrance

They have also eliminated chemical fragrances from a number of Kirkland personal care products and cosmetics. [5]

Exploring BPA substitutes

Costco has committed to phasing BPA out of their Kirkland brand, but not until a “safe alternative becomes readily available.”[6,7]

Ranking by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

“Getting Started” (3 out of 10 kisses)[8]

In their own words…

“As you are aware, which chemical ingredients are permissible in personal care products and in what quantities is a heavily regulated area. At a minimum we require our suppliers, of both branded and Kirkland Signature products, to be compliant with Food and Drug Administration regulations and any other applicable regulations. In addition to regulations, there is evidence to support the safety or lack thereof pertaining to many personal care ingredients, and often this evidence is inconclusive or even contradictory. We work only with reputable and established suppliers who employ chemists and maintain research and development departments. We expect for them to be up-to-date on the evolving scientific research and consensus on ingredients their companies use. In general we do not substitute judgment for their expertise, although on occasion we will identify a particular ingredient or chemical and seek to eliminate its presence in Kirkland Signature products. For example, our new formulations for Kirkland Signature cosmetic colors and skin care will not contain parabens, nor does our Kirkland Signature shampoo and conditioner. Similarly, we have eliminated fragrance from all Kirkland Signature cosmetics except the facial cleanser (which contains only a minimal amount).”[9]
- Statement, 2012

Sources:

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


[2] Robin E. Dodson et al., 2012. “Hormone Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer ProductsEnviron Health Perspectives


[3] Costco, 2009. Corporate Sustainability Report.


[4] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. “Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety.”


[5] Ibid.


[6] NRDC, 2010. “New Report Grades Companies on BPA-free Progress.”


[7] Green Century Capital Management and As You Sow, 2010. “Seeking Safer Packaging: Ranking Packaged Food Companies on BPA.”


[8] Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. “Retailer Therapy: Ranking retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety.”


[9] Ibid. Letter from S. Leigh Fulwood, Costco Corporate Counsel to Lisa Archer, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, May 20, 2011. http://safecosmetics.org/downloads/Retailer_Therapy.pdf