Wal-Mart Taking Lead on Eco-Labels
Stores, as most know, takes all this sustainability stuff pretty seriously.
Also, as its support for legislation that would mandate employers provide
health insurance demonstrates, the company likes to get out front and influence
issues before they compromise its competitive position.
factors seem to be behind a decision by a new environmental labeling program
unveiled by the retailer that would require suppliers to calculate the
full costs associated with the manufacture of products. Wal-Mart plans
to take that information and boil it down to a simple rating system that
would be displayed like price tags on the shelves of its stores.
Wal-Mart has indicated the development of the program, The Wall Street Journal reports that it will likely take
years before any show up in stores. The program is not likely to get into
full swing mode until 2011 at the earliest.
"I envision the day
that you look at a piece of apparel, you flip a tag over, and learn about
how sustainable it really is," John Fleming, chief merchandising
officer for Wal-Mart, told the Journal.
"It would be like nutritional labeling is today. But there is some standardization
that needs to take place."
Len Sauers, Procter & Gamble’s
global vice president for sustainability, said similar programs in Europe
have not fulfilled their promise "because they have not really provided
the consumer with information that makes sense."
"A lot of suppliers
are scared, but there is an opportunity here for them," said
Michelle Harvey of the Environmental Defense Fund, which is working with
Wal-Mart on the project. "I think the most significant improvement
will come before the consumer ever sees a score."
to the Journal, Wal-Mart is making this move as environmental labeling
regulations are being put in place in Europe and Japan. The thinking is
that the U.S. will follow and the retailer can determine the standard for
all others to meet with early action on its own. The retailer disputed
Discussion Question: What
is your take on Wal-Mart’s plans to require suppliers in the future to
provide an accounting of the environmental impact of their products?