Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walmart: The Jolly Green Giant?

Who knew that Walmart would actually have some positive influence on forcing companies to self-report and, inevitably, under such close scrutiny, become more green not only in their business practices, but in their consumer products as well.

You see, back in July, Walmart told the companies of the products they stock that they are launching an eco-labeling initiative. This green tag program will calculate the environmental cost of producing, packaging, and selling each of the items on their shelves, much like the program underway by a similar industry giant in the UK, Tesco.

These eco-scores will then be prominently displayed in a clear, easy-to-understand format for customers to reference when making buying decisions. Nothing like airing your dirty laundry for all to see to help shape customer decisions. In response to this, the massive SC Johnson company announced recently that it had launched a new site listing the ingredients of more than 200 of its products, such as Glade, Windex and the like.

The WhatsInsideSCJohnson website represents the most significant disclosure to date of the ingredients found in household cleaning products. And, while they certainly don't explain the issues with the ingredients, it's a start. At least now you know that those soy-based candles are really just paraffin wax with who knows how much soybean oil in them (plus a whole host of other chemicals).

Is Walmart's eco-labeling just a ploy to rehab their terrible image among critics, who focus on the mistreatment of their employees, their foreign-manufactured products and all-around crappy selection of merchandise? Whatever Walmart's intentions are, it certainly has gotten the attention of companies that sell their products in their stores.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to find out what exactly is in the Nature's Source line of cleaning products. Methinks the scrubbing bubbles on the label hints at something way more caustic than they are letting on.


CitricSugar said...

Yeah, I'm calling this a front.... Their socio-economic record will keep them on my sh** list for a long time yet. They're just greenwashing - their labels and themselves. Trying to capitalize on a trend.

At least we know that the environmental movement is now as mainstream as Snuggies and other 'as-seen-on-tv' crap. Go team! (she said sardonically....)

Bucky said...

I'm not as jaded as CitricSugar. Yes, Walmart is the enemy and yes there is some serious greenwashing going on ...

But still. I know that a lot of people have worked very hard to get Walmart to start paying attention to their ecofootprint.

And they are making moves in the right direction.

Let's all remember that Walmart is the effing behemoth of the retail industry so when they start to nudge in one direction it has huge impact.

No,I don't shop there because yes, they treat their employees like shit. But let's not downplay the fact that the world's largest retailer is starting to get that green sells.

koolchicken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
koolchicken said...

I think it's a ploy to buy back consumers. I hate them and wish I had more shopping options where I live. We have Costco, Wal Mart, K Mart, and a few supermarkets and that's it. I try to limit my shopping there but sometimes I don't have a choice. At least what their doing might make other companies feel the need to do the same thing. It would force companies like Clorox to make eco friendly products. Not just dye their cleaning products green and call them eco friendly!

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

I tend to agree wtih Citric Sugar. I don't think there is anthing Walmart can do to make me shop there. Their labor record alone is enough to make any informed person think twice.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Walmart still totally gives me the jebes. I can't say I've ever stepped foot in one of their stores, not only because there aren't any close enough to me to go to, but also because they completely represent everything I hate about commercialism.

It's all fine and dandy to report what's in your products. Well, sort of - if you go and look at the product ingredient list, even the expanded tab, it's still rather vague and you'd have to do a ton of research to find out what the chemical name represents and what the effects of exposure are.

Anyway, I think the whole thing really is just the companies covering their asses. And, now they can claim how forthright they are, even though they aren't disclosing the inherent issues with the chemicals in their products. Listing them is one thing, telling us the health and environmental risks is certainly another.

Rosemary said...

I'm also uncomfortable with Walmart and have never bought anything there, though I was in one, once. HOWEVER, there are lots of people who not only shop there, but virtually have to shop there, because they can't afford to shop elsewhere, either because of money or just what they have access to. Whether or not they *should* is not a productive argument. They do.

So, I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in some reactions to this news. Don't green-proponents want things like eco-impact awareness to be mainstream, accessible, understood, and influencing people who don't seek to understand or make any changes to their lifestyles based on impact?

I think it's also good to hear that an obnoxious corporation like Wal-Mart is bowing to pressure. I hope that someday they won't be around anymore, that things will go back to small and local or moderate and regional, but I don't think I can count on that.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Rosemary - Yes, I agree with you. I don't necessarily care how we get there as long as we get there, even if it's Walmart leading the way and even if it's under dubious motivations.

I know there's this sense of purity that causes a lot of people to discredit any gains made by "unsavory" corporations. But, isn't the end goal consumer education, access to more environmentally friendly goods and reduction of harmful chemicals?

And, if it's Walmart or some other industry giant leading the way, I suppose we shouldn't be complaining now should we? Or, is the problem that we are a bunch of complainers and we need to complain no matter what? :)

Anonymous said...

I think that it's a great sign that Walmart is doing this. It just confirms in my mind that making more sustainable choices is becoming increasingly mainstream. If Walmart is bowing to the pressure, I hope it's a sign that other companies and businesses will follow suit.

I also think that when a company as large as Walmart makes changes, they have a much bigger impact because of their size. So, hopefully, some real change will come about as a result.

That said, I don't shop at Walmart. And this certainly isn't enough to convince me to start. But maybe, hopefully, it is a step in the right direction by one of the world's largest retailers.

Robj98168 said...

I believe that it is Walmart's intention to GreenWash. But tjat being said, they could use a little greenwashing. I am interested in some of their efforts like encouraging employees to use reusable coffee cups and water bottles, And in deference ti Ciric Sugar, as seen on TV is not neccesarily a bad thing. I would have never discovered Dryer Balls and save 10- 15 minutes drying time on my dryer if I hadb't seen it on tv. LOL That and Ron Popiel is an engineering and marketing genious!

Anonymous said...

Amber draws things out more logically than most. I like that way of looking at it. It's a step in the right direction as long as they are putting a bit of effort into the reforms.

Obviously they want to get on the bandwagon for sales, they're in business to make what they can. But if it helps make things both greener while not costing an arm and a leg, good on them.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget, Wal*Mart not only has the power to impact their suppliers, but also their bajillion customers, and around 1 million employees. I think it is more about the bottom line than green washing. They recycle the majority of the waste that leaves each store - adding to their bottom line, and paying less for waste removal. They also compost all of the food and plant waste possible that leaves their store. They also have programs in place to encourage personal sustainability among their employees. They are leading by example if you ask me, and they have a huge impact on millions of people.
That being said, I find it quite ironic that if they continue to encourage sustainability they'll work their way right out of business. So the one thing they are NOT doing is discouraging consumption. But neither is any big bussiness or government.

Lisa said...

We shop once a month out of town so we don't have to go to Wal-Mart. I annoy my husband by calling it hell.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I have to give SC Johnson at least a little polite golf clap for listing the ingredients of all of their products on their website and not just Nature's Source. No other company that makes conventional cleaners is doing this and SC Johnson did it on their own. That being said, looking at their ingredients lists for their conventional products, isn't going to change my mind about not buying them and stop cleaning with vinegar.

Danika Carter said...

As much as we'd like to believe that it was consumer pressure to go green, it wasn't. The Insurance companies that insure the insurance companies have been telling their customers that if the companies don't start greening their operations and reducing their carbon footprint, they're going to be dropped. The insurance companies see the writing on the wall and don't want to be financially liable for losses do to companies poor environmental practices.

That being said, I'm having mixed feelings about Walmart's greening efforts. If they are sincere about it they have the potential to have a huge impact. The problem comes with just what message they put out there. If it's a message of greenwashing, giving people the feeling that they're doing something good for themselves & the environment without actually doing it then it just continues misinformation.

Also, no matter how green Walmart is, they've built their business on low prices. They aren't going to stop selling all the cheap toxin-laden products they carry. And, they're demand that producers sell to them below the cost of production isn't sustainable.

I want to encourage any attempts at being greener, but like most everyone else, there are still way to many reasons not to shop at Walmart.