Wake up daily to our latest coverage of business done better, directly in your inbox.


Get your weekly dose of analysis on rising corporate activism.

Select Newsletter

By signing up you agree to our privacy policy. You can opt out anytime.

Whole Foods Launches Standards for Household Cleaning Products

A few years ago, Whole Foods announced a Premium Body Care standard for personal products. The seal was slapped on over 1,200 body care products to assist consumers in purchasing the very best. Last year, the company announced that by June 1, 2011, a third-party certification would be required for personal care products and cosmetics that make an "organic" claim. They also issued packaging standards for their suppliers. And now, Whole Foods is taking it one step further yet again, diving into the world of household cleaners.

As we know, there are no regulations for listing ingredients on the packaging of cleaning products. This is why Whole Foods announced last week that it has introduced the Whole Foods Market Eco-Scale, a color-coded rating system for all household cleaners in its stores. The system is tiered, and products are based on the specific set of environmental standards each of them meet. Every product will now be evaluated for environmental impact, safety, efficacy, source, labeling and animal testing. Based on the product evaluation, it will be rated red, orange, yellow or green on the Eco-Scale. Certain ingredients are prohibited in order for a cleaning product to meet the specific standards for each level of the Eco-Scale rating system and, with that, all products that do not at least meet the orange tier will be removed from the shelf by Earth Day 2012.

Specifically, Eco-Scale classifies household cleaners in the following categories:

• Red-rated products do not meet the Eco-Scale standards and will be reformulated or phased out of Whole Foods Market;

• Orange-rated products must be third-party verified to meet the following criteria: No ingredients with significant environmental or safety concerns — such as phosphates, chlorine or preservatives, which have the potential to release formaldehyde. Products also cannot contain artificial colors or use animal testing;

• Yellow-rated products feature all of orange-rated product requirements, plus no ingredients with moderate environmental or safety concerns, such as diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) or monethanolamine (MEA) surfactants — surface acting agents that can act as foaming agents — that have the potential to contain nitrosamines and other impurities, and no synthetic thickeners made from nonrenewable petroleum-derived sources. All products must feature 100%-natural fragrances; and

• Green-rated products represent the highest level of Whole Foods' new standards and meet all the requirements of the orange and yellow products, but also contain only 100%-natural ingredients and no petroleum-derived ingredients.

Whole Foods hopes that the Eco-Scale system will allow customers to make informed choices and, at the same time, encourage producers to create better products.

Kara DiCamillo

Kara is 3p's writer from New England. In her Newport, RI community, Kara is the organizer of Green Drinks Newport, is a member of Newport's Energy & Environment Commission, is a volunteer for the Neighborhood Energy Challenge, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and has also volunteered as a panelist for Rhode Island Farmways, speaking to farmers from around the state about how they can better market and promote their businesses. Beyond the moat that surrounds her island home, Kara has backpacked Mt. Washington in New Hampshire too many times to count and she hopes her next adventure will be to ski the gnarly Tuckerman's Ravine. Kara is a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, a graduate of the Colorado Outward Bound School and in real life, she is a public relations director who'd just plain like to see the world a greener place. Kara has been writing for TreeHugger.com since January 2005 and began writing for 3p in January 2010.

Read more stories by Kara DiCamillo

More stories from New Activism