Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Walmart and Sustainabilty: Strange Bedfellows or a Powerful Partnership?

Interested in knowing the impact of your purchases? A "sustainability index" may be coming soon to a store near you. Who's leading the way? Walmart?

That's right. This Thursday, Walmart is planning to unveil its plan for such an index at a meeting with suppliers, academics, environmentalists, and government officials. Consumer good companies from Unilever to General Mills are planning to attend and learn about the sustainability consortium idea from Walmart. The inclusion of other retailers is especially significant because Walmart apparently wants the idea to reach beyond its own stores: in other words, it wants to initiate but not be the sole user of the index/consortium.

The impact of such an index would be incredibly far-reaching. Walmart collected about $406 billion in revenue last year and has major leverage in the consumer goods world. As shown in Food, Inc., when Walmart decided to sell Stonyfield yogurt, the impact of Stonyfield's ethical practices increased drastically, and Walmart also recently decided not to sell dairy from cows treated with rBST growth hormones. When Walmart sets a standard, retailers need to follow if they want to sell, and if Walmart wants its sustainability index, retailers will have no choice but to search through their supply chains to find the data.

For more info on Walmart and rBST, you can read more here: http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/milk-hormones-rbst-47032108.

For info on Walmart and CFLs, go here: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/08/walmart_to_sell.php.

So, eco-active Hoyas or other folks out there who are "turned on" by renewable energy, what are your thoughts on this? Can Walmart be a leader in sustainability?

Photo is Walmart's standard logo.

1 comment:

  1. honestly, i'm not surprised at all. walmart is not only able to be a leader in sustainability; it MUST be.

    the whole premise behind walmart is affordability, which appeals to the masses. inherently, they operate on a low-margin, high-volume model.

    but if you look at it from their point of view, it's not really being "environmentally friendly," it's about keeping ahead. BECAUSE they operate on a low-margin, high-volume model (think mass production), anyone with the ability to make an environmentally friendly product that is cheaper than the other options out there will make a killing. (luckily for walmart, they are the best at this- for now!)