Goal: Increasing Transparency
Cleaning is more than just removing dirt. It provides essential hygiene that supports and improves health, and prevents the spread of illness. As companies providing essential products to society, we must balance this essential benefit with any potential adverse risks.
Goal: Increase transparency to provide people with the information they need to make informed decisions.
Consumers want to see the evidence of safe, effective products that have been made with respect for people and the environment. One of our key goals is to be a more transparent industry, strengthening trust and helping purchasers choose cleaning products with confidence.
- A Future People Want
Bringing a product into your home to potentially use near your family is a very personal decision. Our homes are our sanctuaries, and maintaining them as a safe and clean environment is critical. People are looking for ways to clean well, at a good price and without harm to those they love or the environment.
In the U.S., ingredient information was not a required element on cleaning product labels. This has led to inconsistency around the amount and quality of information available on products, resulting in confusion among purchasers. In 2010, ACI helped develop an initiative for sharing information about ingredients. This was quickly and widely adopted by ACI members.
Our research has suggested that most people are moderately confident that they are choosing products that are safe, but some are not confident at all. And rightfully so – people increasingly want to know more about what they are bringing into their homes. This includes information about ingredients, their function and any risks that should be considered.
We recognize that our members have a responsibility to provide the information consumers seek, and we are committed to meeting that need.
- Listening and Adapting
In 2019, ACI reached out to consumers to understand their preferences, especially around transparency. It is clear that consumers are seeking better, more detailed information – on ingredients, their purpose, their safety and their potential to cause an allergic reaction. People want to be confident they are bringing home a product they can trust. With these new insights and expectations, our approach is changing, and that change is already underway.
Over the last few years, we have engaged and influenced all kinds of policymakers in their pursuit of new disclosure approaches designed so that people have the information they need when making a purchase. Within the next year, more information than ever will be available for cleaning products sold across the U.S. While we are confident this is the right approach, it will be important to monitor how the new information supports people’s trust in safe, effective cleaning products and promotes confidence in their purchases. Work is also still needed to ensure consistency with how the information is provided across the U.S.
As a result of the new laws, more information will be readily available, including:
- Lists of all ingredients intentionally added to the product
- The function or purpose of each ingredient within the product
- More details about fragrance ingredients that could cause allergies or be of possible concern
- Identification of ingredients or contaminates of possible concern
- Additional scientific details, like what is currently provided in the Cleaning Product Ingredient Safety Initiative.
Helping Consumers Choose Products That Are Best for Them
It is understandable that consumers find it difficult to identify and comprehend the varying types of information available for products found on store shelves today. The food and household products industry is helping to address this with SmartLabel, which makes it easier for consumers to have detailed information on thousands of products at the press of a button, in a uniform and consistent way across brands.
The app works with any smart device and contains far more information than could fit on package labels. Simply by scanning the QR code on the product, people can access useful product and ingredient information to help them make informed choices about what they buy.
With information also available via the SmartLabel website, this is a major step forward in transparency for consumers, and one ACI is proud to support. Currently, 30 percent of ACI household product formulators use SmartLabel, including: The Clorox Company, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble (P&G), SC Johnson, Seventh Generation and Unilever.
Shift to Preferred Products and Ingredients
Today, a growing number of products meet third-party human and environmental safety requirements. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Safer Choice program is a leading benchmark in this area. Safer Choice helps consumers, businesses and institutions identify cleaning solutions that are safe for both human health and the environment. More than 2,000 items carry the logo. Currently, 34 percent of ACI formulators offer Safer Choice cleaning products.
As part of the program, EPA as designates preferred ingredients on its Safer Chemical Ingredient List. Of the estimated 786 ingredients identified in our ingredient inventory, 40 percent have been evaluated and approved by EPA, an increase from 21 percent in 2012.
Managing and Reducing Hazardous Chemicals
The UN Sustainable Development Goals have highlighted the importance of managing hazardous chemicals globally. Chemical footprinting provides a way for companies to benchmark their progress in reducing use of chemicals of high concern and selecting safer alternatives. The methodology measures overall corporate chemicals management performance by evaluating management strategies, chemical inventory and public disclosure levels. The Chemical Footprint Project is the leading initiative helping companies understand their footprint through administration of an annual survey. In 2018, five ACI companies including Ecolab, GOJO, Milliken, RB and Seventh Generation participated.
Increasing Access to Science Education
For many people, chemistry can be an intimidating subject in school, so it’s no wonder that many people find it difficult to understand the chemical ingredients found in their cleaning products. Exploration Clean is an interactive website developed to help students gain a greater understanding of the role of cleaning products in everyday life. In simple, engaging ways, people can discover the different processes use to get things clean (such as chemical energy, mechanical energy and thermal energy), the science behind cleaning products and the types of ingredients used in these products – from enzymes and solvents to antimicrobials and fragrances.
The website is just one way our industry is helping people better understand the science behind the cleaners they use, and how those materials work to get things clean.