A box of Boots cotton pads

Walgreens Boots Alliance made strides during fiscal 2017 to develop comprehensive policies around product sustainability to bridge the gap between the more advanced processes in our UK developed product brands and the challenges presented by the many thousands of products sold in our U.S. stores.

Working with our external Advisory Panel for Sustainability, refreshing our approach to chemicals management, and acquiring tools to trace the ingredients in our exclusive consumer retail product brands and our supply chains, were among the steps we took to create brands with purpose and build engagement on sustainability across our Company. The advisory panel’s fiscal 2017 progress report can be found here.

Building traceability into our supply chain will help enable us to continue to review the substances in our products, such as chemicals.

Chemicals management

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s businesses have a long history of action involving product safety and working to ensure that our owned-brand products meet safety regulations and guidelines. We have stringent requirements and proactively work with our vendors to help ensure the quality and safety of the products we offer for sale.

In fiscal 2017 we worked to refresh our approach to chemicals management and established the following priorities: First, to actively work with our extensive supplier base to improve the levels of traceability and transparency of chemicals and other ingredients in our retail products. Second, to create a chemicals management program for our retail products, to rigorously review, reduce and where possible remove chemicals deemed to be a risk to people, animals or the environment. We are committed to publishing during calendar 2018 a list of high priority chemicals of concern and create an action program for their management.

Walgreens Boots Alliance has an extensive product portfolio covering many thousands of products and ingredients. We are moving step by step in our chemicals management, initially focusing on substances and chemicals within products in our owned brands in the baby, personal care and household chemicals subcategories. We plan to publish a roadmap to extend the scope of our chemicals management to other product categories in our portfolio. We also intend to report on our progress annually.

In the case of relevant owned brands and relevant retailer exclusive brands, Walgreens Boots Alliance is also preparing for compliance with the European Union’s REACH regulation governing the use of chemicals in cosmetics and hard goods (such as candles and makeup brushes) ahead of the May 31 2018 deadline to register substances. Under REACH, companies must identify and manage the risks linked to the substances that are chemicals or contain chemicals and that are imported as raw materials for manufacture in the European Union or are contained in products manufactured or imported into the European Union.  

Walgreens and traceability

Walgreens Boots Alliance is building on the systems we have in place for our sourcing teams in the UK and Asia in order to achieve a consistent level of traceability with all of our product brand suppliers. During fiscal 2017, Walgreens acquired and began implementing tools to achieve greater traceability in its supply chain and products, a key step toward developing comprehensive policies around product sustainability. Walgreens began to use the UL PurView Platform, a customizable system to help enable the business to collect data across its supply chain and make more informed decisions about the sourcing of materials, ingredients and products. The tool will allow Walgreens to compare ingredients against sustainability standards for products registered with UL WERCSmart, a supply chain information system.

Walgreens also joined The Sustainability Consortium (TSC), a global organization dedicated to improving the sustainability of consumer products by building science-based metrics that address specific issues. Walgreens is committed to working with TSC and its research and tools to gain increased visibility into supply chains and prioritize sustainability issues in an effort to source more sustainably.

Walgreens is a member of the cross-industry, collaborative Beauty and Personal Care Products Sustainability Project, an initiative coordinated by Forum for the Future, an independent, international nonprofit working to solve complex sustainability challenges. Walgreens and other major retailers have joined in the project along with numerous beauty brands and raw materials suppliers to develop a process for evaluating beauty and personal care product sustainability.

Cotton swabs

Boots UK announced in December 2016 that its owned brand cotton swabs (known as cotton buds in Britain) would be manufactured with sticks made from rolled paper instead of with plastic, by the end of calendar year 2017. Plastic sticks from cotton swabs have been identified as a source of marine litter and a material that can cause sewer blockages.

Rolled paper sticks will decompose in water over time. To prevent blockages in waste water systems, Boots UK owned brand cotton swabs will be labelled “Don’t Flush It.”


Boots UK and Walgreens have reformulated their product brands to eliminate plastic microbeads in advance of European and U.S. state and federal legislation deadlines. As stated in our 2016 CSR Report, Boots UK ceased production of owned brand and exclusive beauty and personal care products containing microbeads as of December 2015 and committed to cease purchasing third-party products with plastic microbeads after December 2017.

Transparency in packaging

Walgreens joined the How2Recycle program in March 2017 and is phasing in the group’s simplified recycling instruction labels on the packaging of select products. How2Recycle labels make it easy for consumers to know where and how to recycle packaging. The labels have instructions with the proper steps to recycle packaging, the type of recyclable material the packaging is made from, which parts of it are recyclable and where they can be recycled.

Nice! packaging redesign
Walgreens redesigned its core food and beverage brand, Nice!, adding highly visible labeling about calories, sodium content and other health attributes and incorporating new ingredient requirements for suppliers. The easy-to-understand content information is on a health corner label on each package. The ingredient requirements, such as products free of partially hydrogenated oil, trans-unsaturated fatty acids (trans fats) and high fructose corn syrup, are expected to be phased in by calendar 2017.

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