Sustainable Products and Packaging

  • Focus: CVS Brand and Private Label Products

    The evolution toward more sustainable products to satisfy customers’ expectations and reduce environmental impact is a process of continuous improvement, an approach we apply to our ingredients, packaging and labeling.

  • Choosing the Right Ingredients

    Each of our CVS Brand and private-label products is subject to stringent standards of safety, quality and environmental responsibility, from creation to manufacture to store shelf.

    At a minimum, our ingredient strategy starts with compliance with all federal and state requirements. Our aim is to be an early adopter of proposed or impending regulations. Our products must also conform to our high internal standards for quality and safety. They must also satisfy evolving and increasing consumer demands for environmentally preferable products.

    We apply heightened rigor to the chemical ingredients that we use in formulating our products. Our quality assurance team actively engages in collaborations to learn more about chemicals of consumer concern (CCCs) and safer alternatives. Through participation in such organizations as the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council within the Retail Leadership Group and the Sustainability Consortium, as well as with our industry peers and product and chemical manufacturers, we continue to strengthen our understanding of emerging opportunities to enhance the safety of our products and to develop common goals in sustainable chemical management.

    We also utilize RF scanning software to increase the transparency of product ingredients and to require suppliers to disclose chemical-based ingredients in certain product categories and for new or reformulated products. The table on the next page identifies some of the product categories and criteria we track. Using the RF scanner, we can identify the ingredients that are in all of the products we carry. We use the data to ensure compliance with regulations on safe handling, transport and disposal, as described in the Waste section. We are also able to identify non-compliant products that contain restricted ingredients or are on our list of CCCs. In 2015, we invested in a new monitoring tool, which further increases our visibility into the sustainability of our supply chain by allowing us to look deeper into the ingredient profile of products. In addition to monitoring the chemicals used in our products, we actively identify and prioritize the replacement of CCCs with safer alternatives in certain CVS Brand categories, including beauty, baby and personal care, and food products. As new, conclusive research is published on how certain chemical ingredients are linked to health and environmental risks, and safer alternatives are made available, we apply our Cosmetic Safety PolicyThis policy outlines our commitments to customer safety, scientific research, supplier collaboration and continuous improvement as well as the evaluation and replacement of CCCs in CVS Brand products. In 2015, we began the process of developing a sustainable products policy to further inform our strategy and commitments. In the future, we will work on developing standards or leveraging ones already established by credible third-party partners for specific product categories.

    We also continue to be proactive in this regard by looking for opportunities to bring more sustainable, “free-from” products to market that are cost-effective and meet our performance standards, as we did in 2015 with the introduction of an exclusive line of personal care items called Promise Organic, which are made from 100% naturally derived ingredients.

    In 2015, we addressed certain priority ingredients to go beyond existing or pending regulations:

    • Triclosan, an ingredient added to certain soaps, cosmetics, toys, and other products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination, was removed from all CVS Brand products as well as most name brand products we stock in 2015.
    • Microbeads, small plastic spheres that are used as exfoliant agents in cosmetics, skin care and personal care products, were mandated to be removed from all CVS Brand products formulation at the end 2015, ahead of regulatory requirements. We will be replenishing our inventory throughout 2016 with plastic microbead-free formulations while we sell through our existing inventory.
    • Formaldehyde, used in certain baby products, was removed in CVS Brand products in our stores across the country to comply with new regulations banning the substance in child products in the State of Minnesota. In addition, ahead of regulations, we removed the chemical from select non-medicated adult cleansing wipe products.
  • Packaging

    Product packaging helps to maintain the product integrity, ensures consumer safety, and allows the product to be distributed and displayed with ease. It also provides a place to provide consumer information and education. But packaging also requires raw materials and resources for manufacturing, and it creates waste at the end of a product's useful life. We are mindful of the impacts associated with packaging and continue to work with our suppliers to influence packaging design for most of our CVS Brand products. We also partner with our national brand vendors on their packaging efforts.

    We work directly with CVS Brand suppliers to address issues related to labeling, primary and secondary packaging, and hazardous waste related to material packaging. We actively encourage them to minimize or eliminate inner packaging and use recycled materials.

    We also respond to customer concerns. For example, as customers’ interest in product ingredients has increased, so too has their desire to “see” the products they are purchasing.

    In response, we now package some CVS Brand vitamins and pain relief products in clear, sealed bottles with the contents visible from the store shelves. Because this also eliminates the boxes that previously held the bottles, we have also reduced the amount of cardboard packaging we create through this effort.

  • Labeling and Transparency

    Consumers are demanding greater transparency when choosing products to purchase. Increasingly they want to understand the source of ingredients and supply chain practices. Our new product-database technology will give us the opportunity to gather more of the information our consumers want. Our first step will be focused on our Gold Emblem food products.

    While we have employed a robust practice around label claims for many years, we increased its rigor in 2015 to give our customers more confidence in the product label information provided. For example, we are asking suppliers who make claims based on studies to provide us with validation of the study’s methodology and results. We also perform due diligence on certifications used to classify organic, non-genetically modified organism (GMO), and other claims to ensure their reliability. We began the first phase of rolling these practices out to suppliers in November 2015.

    Through our supply chain compliance tool, WERCSmart, we are able to monitor product ingredients. We require all suppliers to register ingredient information for all the chemical-based, over-the-counter health, pesticides, aerosols, battery and other hazardous material products sold in our stores. This allows us to better identify which products have certain chemical ingredients and determine the best methods for meeting federal and state regulations for safe handling, transport and disposal.

We discuss the sustainability of our expanding product portfolio in this section. To learn more
about our "better for you" product lines, turn to Health in Action.

Learn about our other strategic priorities within our Planet in Balance pillar:

Sustainable Operations

Internal and External Engagement Around Our Sustainability Vision

Read the full report:

2015 CSR Report