Will ‘Built for Better’ put Walmart in a better light?

Discussion
Source: Walmart.com/LiveBetterTomorrow
Sep 23, 2021

Walmart has launched an online shopping destination called “Built for Better” to make it easier for shoppers to identify and purchase products that are better for them and the environment.

In a blog post, Jane Ewing, Walmart senior vice president, sustainability, explained that the new initiative is in line with the company’s focus on helping its customers “live better lives.”

“Customers have always trusted us for our low prices, but they also want to know that the products they buy are good for their families, the people who made them and the planet,” Ms. Ewing writes.

Walmart is using icons to highlight better products for personal use and the planet.

Food products carrying the “Built for Better – For You” icon will need to meet higher nutritional standards and such everyday essentials as cosmetics and detergents will fall under recognized standards including EWG Verified, Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX, made without parabens, etc.

Walmart will also use an icon to call out “Built for Better – For the Planet” items. Products included in this group will conform with more than 30 independent standards with a primary focus on environmental benefits such as Energy Star and Rainforest Alliance certified.

“We know transparency is important, so customers can learn more about the criteria, and the organizations that help distinguish products, in a methodology page on our site,” writes Ms. Ewing.

The retailer is promoting this new initiative along with others related to sustainability in a marketing campaign that will direct consumers to Walmart.com/LiveBetterTomorrow.

Ms. Ewing says that this new effort is all part of Walmart’s commitment to developing into “a regenerative business” that puts humanity and nature at the heart of everything it does, from sourcing products and eliminating waste to selling sustainable products and protecting and seeking to restore the environment.

“It will take all of us to make a difference,” Ms Ewing writes. “That’s why we’re making it more convenient for the hundreds of millions of shoppers we serve each week to make a difference with their dollars.”

Walmart is pledged to make a difference going forward with the understanding that the world and its customers do not stand still. “We’ve created a framework that can grow over time. As the needs of our communities and customers continue to change, we’ll change right alongside them.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Will “Built for Better” resonate with Walmart’s existing customers and help it attract new ones? How does this initiative play into other steps the chain has taken in relation to employee relations and social issues?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Environmentally-based initiatives need authenticity behind them to appeal to the target audience. "
"It feels like Walmart is simply piggybacking off the work that the brands they supply have already done (and they absolutely should)."
"The challenge for Walmart is the current politicization of topics such as ESG and sustainability. They may catch some blowback from some of their customers."

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23 Comments on "Will ‘Built for Better’ put Walmart in a better light?"


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Jennifer Bartashus
BrainTrust

Environmentally-based initiatives need authenticity behind them to appeal to the target audience. Simply having products or listings may not be enough, as a deeper emotional connection to a cause (like the environment) drives spending. Consumers who care about such products will want to see that the retailer’s position runs deep and links to other policies and actions.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Sustainable and environmentally-friendly products make many consumers feel better about their purchases. Knowing that Walmart offers products that are environmentally friendly will resonate with some existing customers but, more importantly, it may attract some consumers that don’t normally shop at Walmart. The “Built for Better – For the Planet” offering will especially appeal to Millennials. According to a Nielsen study, Millennials are willing to pay more for products that contain environmentally friendly or sustainable ingredients.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

Separate the idea of doing something good from whether this will help Walmart’s business. Great idea and good for them for being socially responsible. But if you don’t shop Walmart now, this won’t do it. And Walmart’s base customer doesn’t care at all – they are there for the prices.

George Anderson
Staff

The “Built for Better” initiative is building on Walmart’s EDLP focus, not swapping out higher priced products with some green icons attached.

Two-thirds of American households shop for groceries from Walmart at some time in a given year, based on research I’ve seen over the years. Ninety-five percent shop at least once a year with the retailer. Quite a bit has been made in the past couple of years that customers who will not shop in a Walmart store are quite willing to buy from the chain online.

It seems to me that Walmart is looking for ways to move beyond shopper stereotypes and meet its customers on their own terms. Low prices and better-for-you wrapped up in a single package seems the ideal way to do just that.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

George, fair enough provided Walmart has an effective, continuous, accurate process for determining what “their own terms” actually are. The road to retail hell is paved with good assumptions.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

I would sum up Walmart’s dilemma thusly: they can — and should — pursue multiple goals … just as long as they remain 100% focused on cost.

Nikki Baird
BrainTrust

I appreciate the transparency that the site offers, where Walmart explains its methodology in how it determines the labels that it applies. But I am very curious why they didn’t just create a microsite that has all of those items already curated for the consumer. There is a constant battle between consumers wanting more “green” products, but also being unwilling to pay more for them, and I suspect that most Walmart shoppers fall more heavily on the “unwilling to pay more” spectrum. In that sense, adding a label to goods that consumers have found for other reasons may help shoppers feel better about decisions they’ve already made.

Walmart does have an opportunity to win over new shoppers though – to convince shoppers familiar with Walmart but unwilling to shop there because of a perception that Walmart does more harm than good for sustainability. But they’re not going to win over any of those shoppers if they just drop them into the wild west of Walmart.com.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

One of Walmart’s big issues is how to attract and retain younger shoppers. Online, the company has had some success over the past few years, but it is still nowhere near where it wants to be – especially compared to Amazon and Walmart. There are multiple reasons for this under-penetration, but one of them is Walmart’s image which is somewhat out of tune with the values of Gen Z. This initiative focusing on sustainability is part – but only part – of the solution. Of course, it will also have benefits and help shift perceptions beyond the younger audience. The only slight problem is that much more is needed alongside this to reframe Walmart to non-core shoppers.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

This is kind of interesting to watch. Seems to me that Amazon is going after Walmart’s core customer and Walmart is going after Amazon’s.

Sustainability has become an important initiative, as both companies’ customers have experienced the impact of climate change along with the pandemic.

It’s a good move for Walmart in many ways — especially if it’s real.

George Anderson
Staff

A recent Deutsche Bank report showed some overlap between Walmart and Amazon. It found that Walmart+ has grown to 32 million members, up from 19 percent a few months earlier. About 86 percent of Walmart+ members are also Prime subscribers.

The two plans also have customers with similar demographics. Sixty-one percent of Walmart+ members are from households with an annual income of more than $50,000 and 33 percent are above $100,000. Sixty-three percent of Prime members are over $50K and 28 percent are above $100K.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

With respect, the data in that report is highly questionable. Walmart+ does not have 32 million members. Walmart’s own financials, specially the membership income and deferred revenue lines, indicate the impossibility of this.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

When it comes to taking care of our environment and our planet, the adage “Every little bit helps” definitely applies. With Walmart’s scale, every little bit they do can quickly add up. So I applaud them for this initiative and hope that consumers respond. Next, I’d love to see these products highlighted as a collection and even promoted to encourage more Walmart shoppers to try them.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

Sustainability is a social and business macro trend— not to be ignored. Walmart is backing “Built for Better” with certifications that bring credibility to the initiative and products. Sustainability is not new for Walmart; more than a dozen years ago, the company created a supplier sustainability index. The current initiative continues the company’s journey.

The challenge for Walmart is the current politicization of topics such as ESG and sustainability. They may catch some blowback from some of their customers. Still, I expect the company will overcome any negative response with higher brand value perception and the rewards of more Walmart consumers embracing intentional shopping.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

“They may catch some blowback from some of their customers.” I was thinking that, but thought the comment would be too cynical. Reading you, I don’t see it as cynical at all and I feel much better.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

I’d need to see some actual data but my hypothesis would be that the target Walmart consumer isn’t actually any more interested than the general public about the fate of the planet, and would be equally hesitant to pay extra for “Built for Better” products. The other issue here is that you can’t be partially transparent anymore than you can be partially authentic. Before any company touts its environmental or social awareness, it had best make sure all of its ducks are in order. Otherwise, you are just holding up a bigger target for your critics.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Are we suggesting possible Built for Better-washing?

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Gene, the possibility exists.

Evan Snively
BrainTrust

It feels like Walmart is simply piggybacking off the work that the brands they supply have already done (and they absolutely should). Awareness and showcasing the work done behind the scenes is difficult when you are not selling direct through your own channel, so hopefully Walmart can help forward the cause – both through consumer awareness and maybe also a little pressure on brands to strive to comply with those designations. I’m not sure it will change purchase behavior in the short term though unless Walmart really starts giving priority placement in-store and online to these goods.

Mel Kleiman
BrainTrust

The world is waking up to the fact that if we don’t start taking care of the planet we live on, we will not have a place to live. Protecting our earth is no longer a generational or income level problem. It is everyone’s problem. If Walmart walks the walk, helps educate its customers, and delivers on its sustainability promises, it will make a huge difference.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

It will take more than a clever website for customers to come to care that Walmart is doing good for the environment and helping customers do that too. Were I able to believe this is serious change for Walmart, I’d be happy. But this is merely a start.

Brian Numainville
BrainTrust

This is certainly important and timely, and if Walmart executes here and connects this to broader organization initiatives, it will certainly be a positive. Not sure it will attract many new shoppers given their already large base, but it might give many existing shoppers who are focused on sustainability and environmental issues a reason to shop there more (and feel good about it beyond just price).

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

The stereotype of Walmart — both the company and its customers — is a fixation on three things: low prices, low prices and low prices. Presumably this and other (similar) recent moves reflects either an effort to reach a wider clientele, or a greater sophistication in the existing one (or both). While cynics will decry it as greenwashing, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, and call it a small nod to “corporate responsibility” (as the word is currently used).

John Karolefski
BrainTrust

I like this program and applaud Walmart for launching it. But the core Walmart customer is interested in low prices. If “Built for Better” products cost more, most of the core Walmart customers will not be interested.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Environmentally-based initiatives need authenticity behind them to appeal to the target audience. "
"It feels like Walmart is simply piggybacking off the work that the brands they supply have already done (and they absolutely should)."
"The challenge for Walmart is the current politicization of topics such as ESG and sustainability. They may catch some blowback from some of their customers."

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