CVS Caremark Corporation, headquartered in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is one of the largest drugstore chains in the U.S., with over 7,300 stores and 2011 U.S. retail sales of $59,688,000—the 7th highest, nationally.[1] The company sells prescription drugs and general merchandise including beauty products and convenience foods.

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, developmental disabilities, and diabetes. Parabens, for example, are a group of compounds often used as preservatives in food, pharmaceuticals, and a variety of cosmetics, including makeup, moisturizers, hair care products, deodorants, and shaving products. Several authoritative government agencies have identified parabens as endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals.

In 2013, CVS incorporated the WERCSmart tool, a service that would provide CVS with ingredient information on the products it carries. In their 2012 Sustainability Report, “This will be a mandatory process that will allows us to not only monitor the chemicals that are in the products we sell, but also help us in the safe handling, transport, and disposal of these products.”

CVS has expanded their product selection to include beauty products that avoid some toxic chemicals. We applaud CVS’s cosmetic safety policy and their action to phase out parabens, formaldehyde-releasers, triclosan, and phthalates like diethyl phthalate (DEP) from CVS brand baby care products. These are great steps—but there is more to be done. CVS Caremark has the power to protect all of its customers from these health risks, and to improve sustainability and safety across their supply chain.

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

What is CVS Caremark doing to get tough on toxics?

Internal Policy on Chemicals?

CVS’ Environmental Policy Statement focuses its strategy, goals and targets on seven areas including: “Seeking feasible alternatives for materials of concern in the development of our products.”[2]

CVS has a Cosmetic Safety Policy that commits the company to: “Developing action plans to replace ingredients of concern in our branded and private label products when safer alternatives are available and prompting similar action by our supplier partners.” [3]

Private label products

CVS has phased out parabens, formaldehyde-releasers, triclosan and phthalates, including diethyl phthalate (DEP) from all CVS brand baby care products. They have also committed to limit levels of 1,4-dioxane to less than 5 parts per million in these products.[4]

Cosmetics Safety Policy

In 2008, CVS developed a cosmetics safety policy that states: “we are dedicated to staying abreast of new conclusive research related to cosmetic safety, to assessing findings that demonstrate a linkage between certain health and environmental risks and specific chemical ingredients used in beauty and personal care products, and to evaluating how these findings impact the products we sell.”[5]

Ranking by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

“Making Progress” (5 out of 10 kisses)[6]

In their own words…

“We will continue to evaluate and replace ingredients of concern in our branded and private label products when safer alternatives are available. And we will urge similar action by our supplier partners.”[7]
-CVS Spokesperson, 2012

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

[2] CVS Caremark, 2011. “2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Letter from Cheryl Mahoney, Vice President for Beauty, CVS/pharmacy to Janet Nudelman, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, October 23, 2012; cited in The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, 2012. “Retailer Therapy: Ranking Retailers on their commitment to personal care product and cosmetics safety.”

[5] CVS Caremark, 2011. CVS Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

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

[7] Ibid.