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July 16, 2009



Good job balancing some skepticism and the excitement that this announcement justifiably evokes. Your last paragraph puts it very well. We can't have a sustainable world w/o a sustainable Wal-Mart, so this is an important and necesary - but not sufficient -step.

Chris Harges

The WSJ described this as a product labeling initiative in which the first step is a preliminary questionnaire (http://bit.ly/5uwm2). I'm no Walmart booster, but by firing a shot across their suppliers' bow with the announcement of an eventual product qualifying and labeling system they're definitely moving the ball forward.

Their decision a decade ago to require suppliers to provide bilingual product information had a huge effect on how suppliers manage product-related collateral.

By the way, Walmart's dropped the dash in their name. Think of all the ink that'll save.

Halim Dunsky

What about sustainable living wages and benefits for Wal-Mart employees? What about the destructive effects on the ecosystems of local business where Wal-Mart operates? It's not sustainable to deplete human and social capital. The focus on product sustainability is welcome in its own right, but also appears to serve the purpose of drawing unwelcome attention away from Wal-Mart's own practices and systemic impacts.


I really enjoyed this informative and balanced post. It's true this is a bold and important step but simply the beginning. I am happy to hear Wal-Mart does not intend to own this and that they have brought Best Buy, Costco, Target, and Kroeger into the conversation.

Susie Hewson

Whilst this is a good starting point, it is beyond me why it takes a large international company with so much dollar collateral such a long time to move to the point of accountability.

What's being proffered here? Walmarts organisational procurement, human rights issues, fair trade, employment rights, land banking?
One of the critical sustainability issues for a retailer, one that immediately can and should be transparent, is accountability for what they sell because unless these are sustainably produced, then it is just all greenwash.

If Walmart really wanted to get things square for the environment and human rights, then it can take a bold step and get rid of all the stuff it lists that damage both.

Matthew Rochte, Opportunity Sustainability

Nicely done Joel.

Balanced, informative, behind the scenes, optimistic. In this case I think the reality and the hype are pretty well matched. This is a huge turning point in consumerism. Juggernaut Walmart is taking a stand and is pointing a new direction for business. Yes it is a first step, yes it has a lot of room for improvement.

With respect to the labor issues, people need to remember this index set of questions is not owned nor solely created by Walmart, but rather a consortium of sustainability leaders who were looking across both a broad, international, and cross industry perspective. These are much more challenging to qualify and quantify universally.

Thank you Joel for your continued leadership in this space.

Matthew Rochte, LEED AP
Sustainability/CSR Consultant

FYI as of 13:20ET your link to the index pdf does not work.

Joe Rinkevich

Thanks, Joel.

This is a well-balanced capture of the complex process that is setting up an evaluation process, enrolling input and ideas, then deploying it all in one of the world's largest commercial systems.

I greatly appreciate Walmart's efforts in taking a supporting, validating and leading position in sustainability over these four years or so. Of course there are many other leaders that have come before them. Walmart is standing on the shoulders of individuals and organizations you mention in your post, among many others. Many of whom are far out in front of this latest announcement from Bentonville.

There are, as well, so many other organizations who have a long way to go toward transforming their environmental impact. This next step by Walmart and the many participants in their process will help to bring us all along.

Joe Rinkevich
SciVera, Inc.

Chris Glennon

Why create another standard that will only be used at one retailer. What about one with broad market appeal, such as JumpGauge Interactive Labeling (http://www.JumpGauge.com/)? Consumers could use it at all retailers, not just Walmart. Interactive labeling also offers greater transparency and knowledge transfer than a simple questionnaire

Denise Lee Yohn

thanks for this analysis of walmart's efforts -- it's helpful to hear the good and the bad.

what stands out to me is the "iterative process" approach which walmart is taking -- it's unusual for such a large company to tackle such an important issue with a "ready-fire-aim" approach. sure, google has perfected this imperfect m.o., but it's quite a departure for walmart. it certainly leaves them vulnerable to criticism, but if the end goal is getting it right, perhaps this is the best way. i'm eagerly waiting to see how this unfolds...

Peter T. Knight

Thank you, Joel, for a characteristically well-written piece of old-fashioned journalism: balanced and informative. Judging by the excited headlines that greeted Walmart’s announcement I thought I had missed an anniversary moon landing.

Peter T. Knight
Context America, Inc.


If you’re interested CNBC is airing an original documentary, “The NEW Age of Walmart” which premieres Wednesday, September 23 at 9P ET on CNBC. The show will discuss the store’s new green policies with the CEO. Check out the sneak peak here: http://bit.ly/12Tnlw
And for more info:http://bit.ly/l8okr
Thanks so much and good luck with your work.

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