Making informed choices should be simple. Our industry-first strategy is designed to help us manage chemicals across our business and serve up better product options for our guests and their families.
Our guests want to know about the chemicals used to make their favorite products, and they look to Target for better options for their families. So, in 2017, we launched our chemicals policy to help us manage chemicals across our product assortment and operations.
Target is committed to driving transparency, proactive chemical management, and innovation across all of our owned and national brand consumer products and operations. We do it through:
We strive for full visibility to chemicals contained in or used to make the products we sell and use in our operations.
We work with business partners to implement policies, practices and tools that facilitate the management of chemicals throughout our supply chain and across our operations.
We recognize that safer alternatives may not exist today for some chemicals. Therefore, we actively pursue and promote new approaches to chemicals development and the commercialization of safer alternatives.
Implementing our policy
Our chemicals policy is an integral part of our Target Forward commitments and overarching responsible sourcing aspirations. We believe that by supporting our vendors in being more transparent about the ingredients in products, we can spur innovation across all our product categories and operations and help reduce unwanted substances from the homes and workplaces of millions of guests.
One key principle of our chemicals policy is the desire to find safer alternatives and avoid regrettable substitutions. We’ve made detailed guidance and resources available to our suppliers on how to find, assess, compare and select safer alternatives to chemicals guests may not want in their products and how to avoid regrettable substitutions. Another key principle that we use to implement our policy is to vary our approach based on the needs of the product category or part of our business, whether that’s based on availability of suitable alternatives, testing requirements or innovation to support the greater supply chain needs.
Our approach to goals
We introduced our first set of goals in 2017, aimed at addressing unwanted chemicals with significant potential health impact and prevalence within our products. The goals prioritized products our guests tell us are most important to them: ones that go in, on and around their bodies.
Since we set our first goals, we have made steady progress and continue to challenge the industry. We are actively evaluating the landscape and learning along with our stakeholders. Some of our goals will be retired as they reach their goal dates and/or are achieved, and we’ll set new goals on occasion as well. For example, we recently set a goal that by 2025 we’ll seek to remove intentionally added perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS) from owned brand products including but not limited to textiles, formulated, cosmetics, beauty and cookware items. We share more about our goals and how they help us advance our work within the sections below.
Textile product categories
As part of our chemicals policy commitments, we are actively working to make progress toward greater transparency, better chemical management and innovation in our textiles products.
We utilize a restricted substance list as applicable for Target products. This is done by restricting chemicals in our manufacturing processes (MRSL) and through an additional list restricting chemicals in the product (RSL).
Our RSL applies to all owned brand products for Target and includes the following product and facility types for products manufactured on or after January 2020:
- Clothing (entire garment/textile product including trims).
- Non-clothing (furniture, bedding, footwear, umbrellas, etc.), textile only.
Our MRSL applies to owned brand textile supply chains only and doesn’t include trims.
- Categories: Clothing, Accessories, footwear, bedding, bath, and kitchen textiles.
- Factory: Dyeing/finishing forward.
In alignment with and going beyond our RSL, we leverage certifications such as Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX® to provide our guests further safety and peace of mind. Standard 100 verifies that products have been tested for harmful substances against a list of up to 1,000 chemicals.
For MRSL, we look at restrictions for the input chemistry for a facility and set corresponding requirements for the output/wastewater from the facility. As of 2018, Target became a signatory brand of the ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme and adopted the ZDHC MRSL and corresponding ZDHC Wastewater Guidelines. It is expected that our suppliers adopt the ZDHC requirements (MRSL and Wastewater Guidelines), utilize and have access to the ZDHC tools (ZDHC Gateway, ZDHC Chemical Management System or equivalent, applicable ZDHC trainings, Supplier to Zero program, Reporting, etc.) and comply with these requirements.
We have and will continue to provide our vendors guidance on our RSL, MRSL and chemical management via our online supplier platform. We know that our vendors and manufacturing supply chain play the biggest part in ensuring we are driving continuous improvement in meeting our chemical policy expectations. We will continue to work with vendors and supply chain partners on our ongoing efforts toward meeting our chemical policy goals and objectives.
Our textile-specific goals
- Target plans to remove added perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) from owned brand and national brand exclusive products by 2022.
- We continue to make progress on our goal to remove added PFCs from owned brand textiles product. While we did not achieve the goal, we are moving forward with lessons learned to inform our strategy, and we will continue work on this goal in 2023, as part of our broader PFAS goal for 2025. We initially prioritized items that affect vulnerable populations and touch the skin, and we have achieved our goal of removing PFCs from many footwear and soft home products, building off our previous work of removing PFCs in apparel categories.
- Target plans to improve textile products by removing added flame retardants that are potential carcinogens or pose harm to the guests, workers or communities by 2022.
- Target achieved our 2022 goal of removing added flame retardants that are potential carcinogens or pose harm to guests, workers or communities from owned brand products, and we will continue to monitor all new and pending legislation for ongoing compliance.
- Target plans to comply with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals’ (ZDHC) progressive level wastewater standard,1 in regards to all owned brand apparel textile factories by 2025.
Formulated essentials product categories
In 2017, we set a goal to improve beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning product categories by formulating without phthalates, propyl-paraben, butyl-paraben, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-donors or NPEs by 2020. We worked directly with our manufacturing and brand partners to understand the challenges of reformulation, and the suitability of alternatives. While we didn’t achieve our ambitious goal to completely eliminate these ingredients from our product assortment, we learned a lot in the past several years and made strides in improving these categories. Instead of continuing to track against this goal, we have applied our learnings to update our strategy to address a new Target Priority Chemical List (TPCL). This list was built into business processes to incentivize and design products that are better for people and the planet. As of January 2023, all formulated products that are part of the Target Clean program have been verified to be free of all chemicals on the Target Priority Chemical List.
Our 2017, transparency goal in beauty, baby care, personal care and household cleaning formulated products, including generics such as ‘fragrance,’ will also be retired as a formal goal. Instead of continuing to track our progress, we’re building in the same transparency expectations to programs like Target Clean and our owned brand product development. We encourage all supply chain partners to find paths allowing full material disclosure to consumers, and support those who are actively going above and beyond the current transparency regulations.
Despite sunsetting these specific time-bound goals, we’re advancing our overall approach in these product categories by calculating our chemical footprint, beginning with a 2020 baseline. We are also expanding our Target Clean program, making transparent products affordable and accessible for guests and team members.
Our operations efforts
To continue our leadership and demonstrate our commitment to our chemicals policy, we’ve identified areas within our operations where we’re taking action on driving transparency and chemical management.
- Receipt paper: Target has transitioned to phenol-free receipt paper for our stores. There is growing concern — backed by studies — about the negative health effects of handling BPA (Bisphenol A) and BPS (Bisphenol S) chemicals found in standard thermal receipt paper. By switching to a phenol-free receipt paper, Target has taken a significant step in promoting the ongoing safety and health of our team members and guests. Since 2020, Target has fully converted to phenol-free receipt paper for use in all standard and mobile-device checkout lanes.
- Smart salting: Target has revamped our salt application training at stores that experience snow- and ice-related events during winter. This training instructs our team members on appropriate salt application, reducing negative impact to local water bodies, while still maintaining a safe environment for the guest.
- Neonicotinoid management: In an effort to do our part to address the growing evidence suggesting that the use of neonicotinoids (neonics) insecticides may be harmful to bee populations, Target has implemented a system to increase transparency by tracking vendors’ use of this chemical on our properties. Our aim is to have an in-depth understanding of where neonics are used on Target properties in order to develop better risk management options and best practices around managing neonics in the future.
Promoting pollinator health
In addition to the neonicotinoid work within our operations, we have set a goal to leverage soil health practices to improve at least 1 million acres of land by 2025. We also provide the following guidance to partners in support of protecting pollinators.
The following guidance applies to all our produce, live plants and flowers supply chains (owned brand and national brand):
- Suppliers are encouraged to limit non-essential use of pesticides and employ integrated pest management (IPM) strategies whenever possible.
- Suppliers are encouraged to transition away from neonicotinoids and chlorpyrifos in favor of alternative solutions, unless mandated by law. When phasing out these pesticides, suppliers are encouraged to avoid regrettable substitutions. (The EPA provides a list of chemicals subject to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s policy to mitigate the acute risk to bees from pesticide products.)
- Live plant suppliers are encouraged to label pollinator-friendly plants (plants grown without neonicotinoids, flupyradifurone and sulfoxaflor) for sale in our retail stores.
- Continue to avoid selling invasive live plant species based on recognized regional lists.
- Controls and processes for application of any chemicals or pesticides must meet or exceed all local and federal laws, regulations and guidelines. Suppliers may be asked for documentation at any time.
- We support and encourage the growth of the organic industry and the high tech hot house or greenhouse grown industries with their primary reliance on the use of IPM.
Green chemistry and safer alternatives innovation
One of the ways we’re meeting our innovation commitment is by using our philanthropic resources to support the work of organizations driving innovation across the chemicals value chain.
We requested proposals from nonprofit organizations, schools or public agencies committed to driving systems change to advance green chemistry in any of the following four key areas: Awareness, Transparency, Chemical Assessment and Safer Alternatives.
These grant recipients are driving systems change to advance green chemistry:
Grant Recipients for Green Chemistry & Safer Alternatives Innovation
Beyond Benign Inc.
- Program name: Toxicology for Chemists: Designing Safer Alternatives
- Description: The Toxicology for Chemists: Designing Safer Alternatives program supports current and future scientists to better understand molecular hazards and the intentional design of chemical products with reduced hazards through creation of an open-source curriculum (OSC).
- Learn more about Beyond Benign
Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3)
- Program name: Amplifying the Impact of the GC3 in Commercializing Green Chemistry
- Description: The 125-member GC3 brings together the entire value chain — from start-ups and chemical producers, to product manufacturers, brands and retailers — to accelerate the commercialization of green chemistry solutions. This investment will leverage over a decade of successful collaborative GC3 programs to significantly grow the impact of the GC3 across global supply chains. Among the areas of focus for this work are development of a three- to- five-year strategic plan, transformation of the organization and its structure, and strengthening the brand and financial model.
- Learn more about GC3
Green Science Policy Institute
- Program name: Highly Fluorinated Chemicals (PFAS) in Food Packaging
- Description: This project investigates the prevalence of PFAS in grocery store food packaging. This class of potentially toxic chemicals is known to be used in packaging, but the specifics need further research. We will also estimate the contribution of food packaging to PFAS emissions from landfills. Findings will be documented in peer-reviewed papers followed by webinars and workshops to educate manufacturers and retailers, with the goal of identifying and encouraging the adoption of green chemistry alternatives to PFAS for grocery packaging.
- Learn more about the Green Science Policy Institute
Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF)
Program name: Solutions for Brighter Futures
Description: HBBF is implementing our Solutions for Brighter Futures project to reduce babies' exposure to toxic chemicals during the most vulnerable periods of development: in utero, and from birth to age 2. Through HBBF's Bright Cities program, funds are used both to directly recruit cities and then work with them to identify and implement the potentially most significant safer alternatives programs, and also to increase consumer awareness of the problem and the greener chemistry solutions being used to lower the levels of neurotoxic chemicals in babies.
ChemFORWARD (formerly MaterialWise)
- Program name: Safer Alternatives
- Description: ChemFORWARD is a chemical management initiative focused on increasing access to high-quality chemical hazard alternative assessments. With cost-effective, verified and actionable information on a cloud-based platform, ChemFORWARD removes barriers to informed decision-making for brands and manufacturers, helping them to avoid regrettable substitutions. With a focus on high-priority chemistry, we aggregate demand and employ precompetitive cost-sharing to catalyze better chemistry throughout supply chains. We provide a support service and evidence base to other NGOs and industry initiatives seeking to move rapidly toward better chemistry.
- Learn more about ChemFORWARD
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
- Program name: Environmental Health Matters Initiative
- Description: Convened by The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, the Environmental Health Matters Initiative will provide a new forum in which the environmental health community can interact with relevant sectors and disciplines to examine available information and discuss innovative solutions to the nation's most significant environmental health challenges. With the goal to protect human health, participants will work to identify opportunities where progress can be made, explore the complexity of the challenges, enable the development of holistic and sustainable solutions, and provide rapid expert input when crises demand.
- Learn more about the Environmental Health Matters Initiative
Queens College, CUNY
- Program name: The Safe and Just Cleaners Study
- Description: The Safe and Just Cleaners Study, a five-year initiative funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, is addressing a gap in knowledge by collecting data from Latinx domestic cleaners to assess current knowledge, awareness, work practices and levels of air and skin exposures to potentially toxic compounds contained in common household cleaning products, with the goal of changing consumer preferences towards safer cleaning products.
- Learn more about the Safe and Just Cleaners Project
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) and Forum for the Future
- Program name: Shared Vision for Green Chemistry
- Description: The Sustainability Consortium and Forum for the Future leverages their combined expertise in science-based metrics, multi-stakeholder facilitation and industry-wide membership engagement to create a shared vision and agenda for green chemistry innovation. This vision acts as a common reference point for diverse stakeholders, helps to identify solutions to overcome key barriers unique to different supply chains, and provides context for current green chemistry initiatives to enhance transparency and awareness in the market. The ultimate objective of this work is to enable consumer product supply chains to work transparently and in synergy toward the common goal of meaningful, systemic solutions for safe, sustainable chemistry.
- Learn more about TSC
- Learn more about Forum for the Future
We also set a goal in 2017 to invest up to $5 million in green chemistry innovation by 2022, and we’re proud to say that we’ve exceeded that goal. In addition to these philanthropic grants, we’ve invested in Safer Made and piloted a program to bring technology, formulation and transparency resources to women-, Black- and Indigenous-owned or founded emerging beauty brands, as well as those owned or founded by other entrepreneurs of color.
It takes teamwork
How do we do it? We’re working closely with our vendors, supply chain partners, NGOs and other stakeholders across the industry to identify unwanted substances in products and operations, understand how they impact health and work to develop safer alternatives.
Meet some of our partners:
- Anthesis — our strategic advisor.
- UL Supply Chain Insights — our provider for ingredient transparency and chemical screening.
- Change Chemistry — member of Change Chemistry and its Retailer Leadership Council.
- Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) — joined its ZDHC Roadmap to Zero Programme and adopted its MRSL for textiles.
- The Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) — signatory to The CFP.
1. The ZDHC wastewater standards are in two parts: conventional requirements and ZDHC MRSL. The conventional parameters relate to metrics that tie to basic water quality, such as acidity and the amount of oxygen available in the water (key to support aquatic life). The conventional parameters include three levels: foundational, progressive and aspirational. As of 2022, at least 22% of our owned brand apparel textile facilities meet the foundational requirements and at least 7% meet the progressive standard.