Companies are looking at ways to reduce their toxic chemical footprints

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: chemicals, companies, health news

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(NaturalNews) A number of companies have begun exploring ways to reduce their toxic chemical footprints as a way to protect corporate profits, according to Richard A. Liroff of the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN).

The IEHN is composed of investment managers seeking to promote "safer corporate chemical policies to grow ... shareholder value and reduce financial and reputational risk to companies," according to an article Liroff wrote for

A company's "toxic footprint" refers to the toxicity created as a consequence of manufacturing its products. According to Liroff, growing numbers of companies are becoming aware of the benefits of reduced toxic footprints. These benefits include, among others, reduced litigation costs, less damage to reputation, improved employee safety and productivity, and increased sales to environmentally conscious consumers. He notes that reducing use of toxic ingredients now can reduce the need to deal with costly government waste laws and protect companies from "toxic lockout" if those ingredients are eventually banned.

Liroff cites SC Johnson as an example of a company that has incorporated toxicity reduction into its corporate strategy. Nike has adopted a corporate goal of "proactively targeting, removing, or replacing" toxic chemicals, even those whose use is legal, and Kaiser Permanente has adopted a precautionary approach, "recognizing that action should be taken even in the face of scientific uncertainty."

Techniques for toxic reduction include favoring reducing waste over better disposal, designing chemicals to be less toxic to humans and the environment, designing chemicals to break down after use, minimizing energy use and favoring renewable resources.

Although many companies shy away from making public commitments to toxic reduction due to a culture of corporate secrecy, Liroff warns that "undue secretiveness can cut against a company in the court of public innovation." He also points out that when companies make their toxics reduction plans public, it forces their competitors to respond in kind, creating a "race to the top towards safer chemicals."

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