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June 18, 2024Campaign for Healthier Solutions testing dollar store products as dollar stores lag on chemical safety

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On May 29, 2024, representatives of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions attended Dollar General’s annual shareholders meeting in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, urging the company to commit to eliminating chemicals of concern from its supply chain. After the company failed to make any new commitments to strengthen its chemical policy or expand its restricted substance list, representatives from the campaign delivered a letter to company executives urging additional action, and announced that they were actively testing Dollar General products for chemicals linked to health conditions like cancer, learning disabilities, and reproductive harm.

The Campaign for Healthier Solutions is led by grassroots organizations including Lideres Campesinas, Los Jardines Institute and Harambee House. This year, members in the Central Valley of California, Albuquerque, NM and Savannah, GA are buying products from dollar stores and carefully collecting them for chemical testing. Organizations participating in the campaign are also collecting survey data from their networks of community members who tend to already shop at dollar stores, to learn what kinds of products families rely on dollar stores to provide, and gauging whether customers tend to think of these products as safe. 

In 2022, after CHS released product testing which revealed the presence of many chemicals of concern in Dollar General products, the company announced an expansion of its restricted substance list. In 2023, Dollar General signed onto the Chemical Footprint Project, a benchmarking metric that helps companies quantify the total mass of chemicals of concern in their products, and understand opportunities for safer chemicals in their supply chains. CHS is now urging the company to commit to transparency by publicly disclosing its Chemical Footprint Project survey results.

But Dollar General has since failed to expand its list of 19 restricted substances, which does not include PFAS, most phthalates, and many other chemicals known to cause harm, and only applies to private-label products. The company has not publicly reported its progress on working with outside suppliers to reduce harmful chemicals in products sold on Dollar General shelves. And the company has failed to commit to any new benchmarks to improve chemical safety in coming years. 

By comparison, other low-cost retailers are meeting holistic benchmarks to reduce their chemical footprint. Between 2017 and 2022, Walmart met its commitments to reduce, quantify and publicly report on the total amount of “priority chemicals” in all of its products, including products from other suppliers; priority chemicals include more than 2,700 inherently toxic chemicals. In 2022, the company announced that it worked with suppliers to reduce harmful chemicals in products by 17% over three years, proving that it is possible for large companies to pressure their supply chains to incorporate more sustainable chemistry. 

An updated Retailer Report Card, grading the progress of retailers on meeting chemical safety benchmarks, is also expected to be published by Toxic Free Future later this year, a longtime ally of the Campaign for Healthier Solutions. Dollar General earned a C- on the fifth annual report card and an F on the 2023 Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard, which ranks the US’ top 25 grocers’ progress on addressing toxic pesticides in their products, demonstrating the need for CHS to continue pushing the company to make progress.