Paul Bogart | March 24, 2009
...that aggressive green purchasing policies are currently advancing the public health and sustainability agenda faster than federal law?
According to the industry journal Plastics News, the growing effectiveness of green purchasing initiatives is “the battleground for the 21st century.” Plastics industry insiders concede that they have much less control over consumers and specifiers than the regulatory process.
Last month, the U.S. Congress’ Government Accountability Office testified before Congress that current federal law “does not require chemical companies to test the approximately 700 new chemicals introduced into commerce annually for their toxicity, and companies generally do not voluntarily perform such testing."
If purchasing power is the new battleground, then ingredient disclosure is at the front line. At the congressional hearing, an official of one large-scale purchaser noted how her company has leveraged its purchasing power into greener building procurement. “To increase the transparency of the chemical constituents in products we buy, we request product chemistry data from suppliers,” said Kaiser Permanente VP Kathy Gerwig, ”KP’s green focus and buying power have helped foster a greener health care economy.”
In a lawsuit filed last month, six groups challenged household cleanser manufacturers to reveal all. Several cleanser companies have led the way to transparency; others lagged, but some are catching up. Just last week, SC Johnson announced they would provide consumers with complete ingredient information for their home and air care products.
Dr. Richard Liroff, Director of the Investor Environmental Health Network, noted "smart companies are making precautionary business judgments about the chemicals in their products. … If you're a consumer-facing retailer or manufacturer, it's no longer adequate to say ‘the regulators say our products and chemicals are safe’ or ‘we are in compliance with all applicable rules and regulations.’ Such declarations simply are not good enough in the competitive marketplace, especially when regulators are not trusted.”
 The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the current federal law governing chemicals in commerce.