Target promises to tell you exactly what's in most care products by 2020

Target will also invest to help find safer alternatives for chemicals it wants out.
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Target says it's committed to letting customers know what chemicals are in the products they buy – and has plans to make it a reality for everything it sells and uses.

The retailer Wednesday announced an ambitious plan that will mean "full visibility" of chemicals within items, both for brands it owns as well as national brands. It also applies to items Target workers use as part of their job.

Target says this is the first policy of its kind in the retail industry, with Chief Sustainability Officer Jennifer Silberman calling it one of the most comprehensive in the U.S.

“It’s ambitious, but using our size, scale and expertise, we think we’ll be able to make significant progress," she said in a news release. "And we hope our robust approach will accelerate similar efforts across the industry."

The timeline

The longterm goal, Target says, is "full material disclosure for all products and processes across all categories." Meaning every single item that Target uses or sells, it will be clear what is in it.

To start, they're prioritizing products used on and around the body.

By 2020, Target pledges to have ingredient transparency in beauty, baby care, personal care, and household cleaning formulated products. They'll also phase out the use of phthalates, propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors, and NPE’s in those products by that same year.

And by 2022, textile products will no longer use added perfluorinated chemicals, nor will they include added flame retardants that are possible carcinogens.

To get there (and beyond) will take working with vendors, supply chains, and other groups to identify the chemicals that need to be eliminated, and work to develop alternatives. So the company is encouraging its suppliers to list all ingredients to start.

Target says it's aware that, right now, there are no safe alternatives available for the chemicals it wants to remove. So the company is planning to invest up to $5 million by 2022 to find the new, safer alternatives.

"Making informed choices should be simple for guests," says Dawn Block, Target's senior vice president for essentials and beauty. "This framework is designed to take the complications out of finding better-for-you product options."

And every year, to keep consumers updated on the progress toward these goals, Target will include changes in its February Corporate Social Responsibility Report. You can see the current initiatives here.

The full look at Target's new chemicals policy and goals can be read here.

Bloomberg notes Walmart has instituted a similar (though less ambitious) policy recently, with the chain looking to ban eight chemical groups.

It reflects consumer demand

Nielsen has found 75 percent of the millennial generation and under said it would pay more for sustainable products. About half of Baby Boomers said the same.

The Environmental Working Group says Target's decision is a big win for consumers, who are demanding fewer chemicals and more transparency in ingredients.

And Forbes says Target's seen that in-house already. The company has expanded its "Made to Matter" brand since the launch in 2014, focusing on products with clean ingredients. And sales in that category jumped 30 percent last year.

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