Online Exclusives

Regulations in Aisle Six

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | June 23, 2014

Regulations are longer the sole province of federal, state and local government. Now retailers—big ones—are getting into the regulations business.

It serves customers more than 200 million times a week at more than 11,000 retail units in 27 countries. Those transactions helped the world’s largest retailer post sales of more than $466 billion in its most recently concluded fiscal year. With volume like that, what company wouldn’t want to join the 100,000 or so other firms that call Walmart a customer? Even better, Walmart wants you, too.
“We need to work together,” explained Peggy Fowler, senior director, product safety and compliance, Walmart. “Without our suppliers, we can’t do business.”
But if your products don’t comply with Walmart’s sustainability program, you won’t do business with the retail giant. And there are plenty of other retailers, with regulations of their own, who insist on a similar level of compliance.
To keep its members abreast of what’s happening in the fast paced world of retailer regulations, the Aerosol Products and Industrial & Automotive Products divisions of the Consumer Specialty Products Association held a joint on the topic during the CSPA midyear meeting last month in Chicago. In addition to presentations by Walmart, the session included comments from representatives from Sears and The Wercs. Both Sears and Walmart rely on Wercs to maintain their sustainability data. Wercs is a UL company, which recently made several key acquisitions, including Prospecter (formerly Innovadex), to help gather ingredient information from industry suppliers. In the coming months, the program will expand. Until now, Wercs has gathered information on private label products; now, the focus is on national brands.
Fowler provided insight on Walmart’s VOC compliance program, which is monitored by Wercs, a UL company. Walmart has relied on Wercs for many years; the VOC program dates back to 2012. The program is made up of five components, including multilayered inventory controls and rapid corrective action plans. Wercs has created an online reporting module that enables manufacturers to eliminate the manual system that is in place for VOC/HAPs reporting.
“Let’s work together to create a uniform VOC program in education, technology and process,” Fowler concluded.
Mike Olsen told attendees that Sears requires all of its suppliers to go through the Wercs program. Like other retailers, Sears uses the data to document product compliance.
Everyone is trying to find a solution to VOC issues, which are complex and require information and education, according to Paul Montgomery of Wercs.
“But it’s more than just retailers and Wercs telling you what to do,” he assured the audience. “We view our customers as our partners. We listen and make changes; that’s why we are the global leader in MSDS hazardous documents.”
Montgomery insisted that working with Wercs makes it easy for suppliers to enter their formulas, while maintaining confidential business information. In just two business days, dozens of retailers will have access to the data, which, over time, has grown from two dozen data points to more than 400.
“If Wercs didn’t work, there would be dozens of spreadsheets from dozens of suppliers,” he charged.
Montgomery noted that most companies in the household and personal care space are familiar with Wercs and have worked with the company in the past. But now, Wercs needs VOC data as part of the WercSMART VOC program, which calls for 100% ingredient content listed by CAS number.
Wercs’ Joan McGuffy thanked attendees for putting up with the company’s “growing pains.”
“We appreciate your support and want to hear from you,” she concluded.