Walmart and Sustainability? Listen to the Mamas–

This post is part of the Green Moms Carnival, which will be hosted this month by Mary Hunt at In Women We Trust. The topic is “standards” with a specific look at Walmart’s sustainability index.

She asked us to ponder this quote:

“Wal Mart and other big box stores are developing a sustainability index. I don’t have the $250,000 it costs to get a seat at the table, but if I had a seat there, this is what I’d want to make sure is in that index criteria…”

Here’s a little background. According to, Walmart has been working on developing a sustainability index for over a year now. This is truly revolutionary, and it could possibly change the retail landscape for the better.

According to this Treehugger article:

“To enter the index, each product will have to undergo an intense life cycle analysis. This will require help from each of Wal-Mart’s 60,000+ suppliers, and some painstaking research. With inspectors and analysts crawling up the supply chain and peeking into every corner of production in order to deliver a comprehensive environmental assessment, we might see some major changes made by some major companies.

But who’s going to be doing the crawling and peeking, exactly? Well, researchers from some of the top universities in the US, for starters. Faculty at Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkelely, and others have reportedly been involved in the planning stages of the index. Wal-Mart’s next move is to announce a ‘sustainability consortium’ (which will debut this Thurs. the 16th) that includes the likes of U of Arizona professors, big manufacturers like Proctor and Gamble and General Mills, and potentially all the aforementioned faculty and even other competing retailers like Target and Costco.”

But guess who wasn’t invited to the party (okay, consortium)? You guessed it. Consumers. Mamas, who hold most of the purse strings.

So, back to Mary’s question. What would I like to say, if was at the table?

Here’s what I would like to see on the sustainability index:

*Clear Labeling and Testing: All products labeled and tested for safety. Products could not contain phthalates, PVC, lead, and BPA.

*Country of Origin Labeling, with clear made in the U.S. labels emphasizing the lesser carbon needed for transporting the product. If the product was made in China, information about specific measures taken to ensure product safety should be included.

*Company Information about green practices and human rights for workers on each product.

*Expected lifetime of product, with information about how and where to recycle or send the product into reuse.

*Clear ingredients list for every product, including those pesky ingredients usually not labeled but present, particularly in cosmetics.

*Safety labeling from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics,, and the Environmental Working Group.

Oh, and I am just warming up. Now, I know I am dreaming, but she asked, and this is what I would love to see. I try not to shop at Walmart, for the many reasons I’ve discussed here before. But I am happy to see these efforts, I only wish they’d asked us consumers what we’d like to see. After all, it’s Americans who made this the biggest, most profitable company in the world, so don’t we have the power here?

9 Responses to Walmart and Sustainability? Listen to the Mamas–

  1. mother earth aka kar October 14, 2009 at 7:12 pm #

    I love the idea of longevity expectation for a product and the company taking on reuse – gosh include the postage and I am all over it. Great suggestion!

  2. Amber October 14, 2009 at 7:14 pm #

    I like your ideas. I especially like the one about expected product life, and instructions for recycling / re-use. I've heard that in parts of Europe companies are responsible for the waste they produce, including packaging and the like. Wouldn't it be fabulous to have something like that in North America?

  3. Anna (Green Talk) October 14, 2009 at 9:55 pm #

    Katy, I couldn't have said it better. The whole sitting at the table really makes my skin crawl. Where is all the money going to go anyways? And who decides what those standards are?

  4. Mary Hunt October 15, 2009 at 4:00 am #

    Thanks for helping your readers understand the Consortium and the connections. I'm going to put your post at the top of the carnival.

  5. Linda October 15, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    I think it is past time for US companies to show corporate responsibility for the waste their products become. Germany has a law that manufacturers must accept the product after its useful life is over – everything from pens to cars. The company then disposes or recycles the waste.

  6. Condo Blues October 15, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    I don't understand why Wal Mart is making the participants pay a huge fee to be part of a discussion that effects them. I also want to ask, what are they going to do with the huge fees they require? Surely they have conference rooms that are large enough to hold these meetings and wouldn't have to rent them?

  7. Green Fundraising Id October 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm #

    Simple. Give away reusable bags for 1 month. Then, like Target has started, give a credit of $.05 per bag that you bring in to pack your items for home.Just something that simple would make a HUGE impact at a company the size of Wal-mart. I say invest that $250K on supplying reusable bags. That would yield less wasted funding since a company that size is going to have a ton of inefficiency in evaluating their process. <a href="” target=”_blank”>

  8. Fake Plastic Fish October 16, 2009 at 2:05 am #

    I love your wish list. I fear that too many companies these days define "green" as low carbon emissions and forget about all the other environmental impacts of products.

  9. shelley October 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    oooh! wonderful post! so far, we have been "wal*mart-free" for 2 grocery shopping visits… it's just the beginning, but my hubby does not want to go there anymore! i like the list here and it would be great to have it come to fruition! thanks again 🙂

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