Press Release - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

"Healthy Nail Salon" Program Wins Harvard's Roy Award for Environmental Partnership

| October 4, 2016

Unique California Initiative Improves Practices Affecting Thousands of Women and the Environment

CAMBRIDGE, MA— The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced today that the California Healthy Nail Salon Program, a partnership between the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, Asian Health Services (AHS), and five city and county government departments, is the winner of the 2016 Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership.

The prestigious award is presented every two years to celebrate an outstanding public-private partnership project that enhances environmental quality through novel and creative approaches.

In partnership with local counties and cities throughout California, the California Healthy Nail Salon Program addresses the environmental health and justice issues faced by workers in the salon industry and works to standardize safe, pollution prevention salon practices that can be implemented nationwide and globally. The Program focuses on the reduction of carcinogenic and reproductive toxins in the workplace by establishing locally-legislated programs that educate and empower salon employees and incentivize salons to reduce chemical exposures and protect the health of the employees, customers, and the environment.

Nail salon workers handle products containing toxic chemicals, solvents, and volatile organic compounds known to be harmful to human and environmental health, but there is very little federal and state oversight of chemical use and exposure in salons. The workers and salon owners often lack accurate information about safe occupational practices and hazardous waste disposal policies that impact thousands of individuals and pollute air and water.

In the United States, over 400,000 individuals are formally employed in the nail salon sector, excluding the thousands of independent contractors who rent stations in salons. Over 97 percent of salon workers in the U.S. are women, many of them immigrants. In California alone, it is estimated that up to 80 percent of manicurists and cosmetologists are Vietnamese immigrants, and more than 50 percent are of reproductive age. The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and AHS partnered with the City and County of San Francisco, the City of Santa Monica, Alameda County, Santa Clara County, and San Mateo County to standardize safe, pollution prevention practices by requiring that to qualify as a "Healthy Nail Salon," a salon must 1) use products free of chemicals known to cause reproductive harm, cancer and respiratory problems; and 2) train workers in the best practices for worker safety and environmental health. As of July 2016, 96 salons carry the "Healthy Nail Salon" seal.

The Collaborative, AHS, and its partners are taking the lead on the issue of environmental justice in the nail salon industry with a high level of progress and partnership. By fostering partnerships on several levels—individual (salon workers), community (organizations and groups), local (counties, cities, policymakers), and national (federal and government agencies)—the Collaborative has brought together diverse entities to implement an innovative and growing program, and in the process, has brought national attention to salon worker environmental justice, health, safety, and rights.

California Healthy Nail Salon Program nail salon workforce members with California Assembly member David Chiu (center).

California Healthy Nail Salon Program nail salon workforce members with California Assembly member David Chiu (center).


Building on the success of the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Programs at the city and county level, on September 24, Governor Jerry Brown signed California Assembly Bill 2125, requiring the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to create guidelines for local governments to voluntarily implement Healthy Nail Salon Recognition programs.

"The Roy Award selection committee was especially impressed with the program's commitment to empowering salon workers to proactively take steps to improve their health and safety and reduce chemical exposure in their workplaces and communities," said Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources program at Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, which coordinates the award. "We believe that this partnership demonstrates the impact of a highly-local, targeted approach in addressing environmental health and justice – and one that can be replicated around the globe." The partnership was selected from a number of highly qualified projects the world that tackle tough environmental problems ranging from eliminating lead in gasoline to lessening the environmental impacts of textile manufacturing to harnessing big data to protect forests. Experts world-wide reviewed the nominated projects with the following criteria: innovation, effectiveness, significance, and transferability.

"It is a great honor that our diverse partnership of non-profit and governmental partners, who have come together to address what has been an overlooked environmental justice issue in our nation, are being recognized for their cross-sector collaborative efforts," said Julia Liou, Planning and Development Director at Asian Health Services and Co-Founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

The purpose of the Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership is to draw attention to an exceptional partnership and its achievements while inspiring others to replicate or expand upon its success. "We are delighted to receive this award along with the Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative," said Debbie Raphael, director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment. "It acknowledges fruitful collaboration among government, NGOs and small business to make work environments healthier. Despite these gains, federal law regarding cosmetics is woefully weak and we call on Congress to strengthen FDA's ability to regulate personal care products and professional salon products."

About the Roy Family Award:

The Roy Family has been a long-time supporter of the development of public-private partnerships to meet social and environmental goals. The Roy Family Award for Environmental Partnership provides positive incentives for governments, companies, and organizations worldwide to push the boundaries of creativity and take risks that result in significant changes that benefit the environment.

This year marks the seventh time that the Harvard Kennedy School has bestowed the award. The previous winner was the Dow-TNC Collaboration, a partnership between The Dow Chemical Company and The Nature Conservancy to help companies understand how to integrate the value of forests, watersheds, and biodiversity into more sustainable business and community decisions.

The 2011 Award recognized Refrigerants, Naturally! a collaboration of four high-profile private companies – The Coca-Cola Company, McDonald's, Unilever, and PepsiCo – and two international environmental organizations – Greenpeace and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) –  dedicated to combating climate change and ozone layer depletion by developing natural refrigeration technologies that are safe, reliable, affordable, and energy efficient.


Press Contacts

Amanda Sardonis
Harvard Kennedy School
Tel: 1-617-495-1351

Julia Liou
Asian Health Services
Tel: 1-310-804-9953

Jen Jackson
San Francisco Department of the Environment
Tel: 1-415-355-3758

For more information on this publication: Please contact Environment and Natural Resources
For Academic Citation:"Healthy Nail Salon" Program Wins Harvard's Roy Award for Environmental Partnership.” Press Release, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, October 4, 2016.