Amazon Issues Responsible Sourcing Policy

Amazon recently issued a Responsible Sourcing Policy that restricts some chemicals and encourages the use of safer ones.  The policy is comprised of a Supplier Code of Conduct and a Chemicals Policy.

Supplier Code of Conduct

The Supplier Code of Conduct sets out Amazon’s expectations for suppliers of goods and services. The policy notes that Amazon expects its suppliers to hold their suppliers and subcontractors to the standards and practices covered by the code.

The code addresses:

  • Health and safety in production areas and any living quarters
  • The right to legal wages and benefits
  • Appropriate working hours and overtime pay
  • Prevention of child labor or forced labor
  • Fair and ethical treatment, including non-discrimination

The company notes that it conducts risk assessments and audits supplier compliance with the program.

Amazon Chemicals Policy

Amazon announced that the company is committed to avoiding chemicals of concern in its products.  The policy identifies chemicals of concern as those that can affect human health and/or the environment.  Amazon specified that chemicals of concern are those that: 1) meet the criteria for classification as a carcinogen, mutagen, reproductive, or other systemic toxicant; or 2) are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic. The company notes that it prioritizes chemicals of concern to focus on product types, customer concerns, and the availability of safer alternatives.

A baseline list of chemicals of concern comprise the company’s Restricted Substance List (RSL).   These are chemicals that Amazon seeks to avoid in its own private brand for baby, household cleaning, personal care, and beauty products in the U.S. The company notes that this policy has been imposed in addition to applicable local legal requirements and associated compliance plans. Amazon plans to expand the plan over time to additional brands, product categories, and geographies.

Elements of the policy include the following:

  • Reduce Usage of Chemicals of Concern. Amazon explained that it encourages manufacturers to phase out potentially hazardous chemistries and adopt green chemistry alternatives, such as those defined in U.S. EPA’s Safer Choice Safer Chemicals Ingredients List.  As noted above, Amazon has begun to reformulate its own Private Brand products to phase out RSL chemicals.
  • Enable Transparency.  The company announced that it is working on website features that will make it easier for customers to access comprehensive information about product ingredients and third-party certifications (e.g., Safer Choice, Made Safe, Green Seal, and Cradle to Cradle).  It explained that it hopes that by making this information more readily available for customers, it will encourage additional brands to move away from potentially hazardous chemistries in their products.
  • Implement a Restricted Substance List. The RSL will apply to all consumer private brand for baby (shampoo, lotion, wipes), household cleaning (all-purpose, kitchen, and bathroom cleaners), personal care (shampoo, sanitizers, moisturizers), and beauty products (make-up).  It focuses on paraben preservatives, formaldehyde donor preservatives, phthalate solvents, nonylphenol (NP) and nonylphenol ethoxylate (NPE) surfactants, toluene, and triclosan. The RSL chemicals will be reviewed and updated periodically.
  • Enhance Transparency with Customers and Stakeholders. The company has reformatted “Amazon Pages” and its “A+ Enhanced Marketing Content” to allow brands to explain the steps they are taking to ensure that their product selection is safe and healthy.  Amazon notes that the framework developed to enable this display employs guidelines to maintain high quality content that is comprised of factual, easily verifiable, and objective information. The company announced that it plans to work to achieve fuller ingredient disclosure on its Private Brand product detail pages in 2019.

The company also reports that it has joined the Retail Leadership Council of the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) and the Beauty and Personal Care Products Sustainability Project (BPC), which encourage the retail sector to use safer formulations and produce more sustainable products.