Reducing exposure to toxins

Sherwin-Williams, the well-known paint manufacturer and retailer, employs about 42,000 people and has more than 4,800 stores. The company does not produce any lead-based decorative paints, but it does offer two industrial products containing lead. One is a special type of paint that helps protect the physical integrity of the steel and other materials that bridges and marine vessels are built from. The other is an automotive undercoating used in repair shops in Latin America. Both products are potentially harmful.

Engagement

Along with a group of U.S. based investors, VCIM called on Sherwin-Williams to eliminate lead and similar additives from all of its products. We presented the health and environmental reasons for doing so and pointed to the fact that one of the company’s competitors had recently made this commitment.

Outcome

Sherwin-Williams responded by saying that substitutes are currently being developed for the paint that helps protect bridges and boats, but none are as effective as the current offering. As a result, the company has decided to continue its production and distribution. The automotive undercoating, in Sherwin-Williams’ view, is not unsafe.

The company notes that repair shop employees wear protective equipment when applying the paint and that layers of lead-free coatings isolate the lead additive from the environment. VCIM does not find this outcome satisfactory and will continue engaging Sherwin-Williams on this issue.

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