The endless benefits of product transparency

When you’re shopping at the store, do you read the ingredient list before you buy a product? Would you know what the chemicals are or what they do? How can you know what’s harmful or safer for you to use?

You shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in toxicology to buy your products. That’s where product transparency and its seemingly endless benefits come in.

What is product transparency?

Product transparency can take many forms:

  • Clear ingredient lists on the label.
  • Thorough product Safety Data Sheets that include all intentionally added ingredients.
  • Certifications that require full material disclosure.
  • Details about raw material sources on a company website.

We think of it as the consumer or the manufacturer having clarity around not only all the ingredients used in a particular product, but also the function or purpose of each ingredient.

How product transparency helps people

Unfortunately, the lack of oversight around consumer products means some businesses use harmful chemicals in their products. Once toxic chemicals are in products, it becomes really challenging to prevent them from reaching people. The effects from all the harmful chemicals used in products add up, and harm our health and the environment.

We won’t be able to address this problem by dealing with our waste effectively or cleaning up toxic spills after they are in the environment. We have to prevent the use and eventual release of these harmful chemicals in the first place.

Product transparency helps enable this preventative approach because it empowers the consumer when they shop. Product certifications that assess material health and labeling programs can also help with products that don’t have ingredient lists. If you know what’s in your product, why it’s being used, or you look for certifications that assess material health, you can make an informed decision to avoid harmful chemicals and bring safer products into your home. That protects you, your family, and your pets from exposure.

How product transparency helps businesses

There are many ways businesses and manufacturers can improve transparency in their supply chains and product ingredients. They can work with suppliers to learn about materials and ingredients using chemical ingredient disclosure principles.

Businesses can then collect this information using platforms like:

But why does focusing on this matter?

When businesses get the full material disclosure on their products, they can identify opportunities for innovation. Consumers increasingly understand the impact they can make through what they buy. Research demonstrates that younger consumers are more concerned about corporate social responsibility. Growing the transparency in products demonstrates a business’ ethics. It might even open new consumer markets.

Businesses can get in touch with our Safer Chemicals Team ( with questions or for help getting started.

How to advocate for change

If you’re a consumer, ask the companies you support what they are using and tell them you want safer ingredients. If you make products, get ahead of toxic chemical regulations by looking into transparency platforms and certification programs that assess material health. Foster interest in what you offer by eliminating harmful chemicals in favor of safer replacements.

Several of our programs like Safer Products for Washington work on finding replacements for toxic chemicals in consumer products. But it will take businesses, consumers, governments, and everyone walking together on this path to make consumer products safer for all of us.


Note: Any reference in this blog to persons, organizations, services, or activities does not constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation, or preference by Washington's Department of Ecology.