As a child, my mother used to drag me out to endless open houses. It was fun to look at the gorgeous new homes for sale and to dream. But invariably, we would laugh. She’d point to a kitchen door that was too far from a countertop, or a window that was ill placed, or a closet that was too small, and say with a loud HUMPPH, “Must have been a man that designed this house. They have no idea how we women live.”
My mother’s words came back to me when I learned from my friend, the green blogger Mary Hunt of In Women We Trust that Walmart is developing its new sustainability index without ANY consumer input. What’s more, they’re charging companies $250,000 to participate in the process of setting the standards. They’re even charging to attend webinars to learn how the index works!
Pictured: Sam’s Club Fair Trade Coffee for sale at Walmart. Cheapest price I’ve ever seen for Fair Trade coffee!
Some of you might be thinking, “Who cares?” Most of my friends don’t shop at Walmart. In fact, most actively avoid the place. I recall a “Green Moms” dinner once where only two of us had even tread foot inside a Walmart. But as I’ve blogged here, here, and here, I actually do shop in Walmart from time to time, and I’ve eagerly cheered them on as they’ve stocked more fair trade, USDA organic, and eco-friendly items. After all, as Walmart goes, in large part, so goes Middle America. And this is why Walmart’s Sustainability Index is so critical to all of us.
By virtue of its sheer size, Walmart’s standards will become the de-facto standards for all products. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying at Walmart or your local corner store. If your favorite products are carried at Walmart – and this includes green favorites like Clorox GreenWorks, Horizon USDA Organic milk, most major organic jarred baby food brands, and many other household brands – your product will be designed to meet Walmart’s standards. Their standard will of necessity become our standard, because the manufacturers will (rightly so) insist that they can’t meet multiple standards. They’ll choose one standard to meet, and if Walmart insists on a Sustainability Index before the US Government mandates one, well….you can guess whose standard will become the de-facto standard of the land.
Others who pooh pooh the need for consumer input might reason, “Well, the companies know what consumers want, don’t they?” Hmm…if all companies knew what mattered most to consumers, all companies would be fabulously successful with amazing, defect-free, safe, functional products.
So Walmart, if you decide you do want consumer input, we’re happy to give it. Just don’t charge us for the privilege, please.
And to hear what other members of the Green Moms Carnival are saying about Walmart’s Sustainability Index and its impact on consumers, please check out Mary Hunt’s blog, In Women We Trust, where she hosts this month’s Green Moms Carnival on Sustainable Standards: What’s the Consumer’s Opinion?
Copyright 2009 OrganicMania
Update – 10/28/11 Since I wrote this post, Walmart has updated its site with links to both the Sustainability Index webinar (which you can watch for free) and a PDF of the Supplier Sustainability Index. — Lynn
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