I just got back from the Walmart ecommerce launch of its new sustainability store, which was a well–orchestrated event that included the who’s who of sustainability. There are so many good things about this launch. For one, when Walmart announces Sustainability Phase 2, the industry listens. Two, by adding a green “sustainability leader” badge on products that score at a certain level on the Index (managed by The Sustainability Consortium), Walmart is showing its consumer that buying Tide, for example, costs the same in the sustainability aisle as it does in the laundry care aisle. Three, the whole program continues to push hard on the supply chain, helping to guard against greenwashing in its purest form.
The challenges are also numerous. First, the leadership badge is earned at a producer, not product, level at this early stage, which is simply not good enough. Second, because of the scale of the project, and the need to create some standards, the products offered are in fact not necessarily the “greenest” or even particularly sustainable. In oral care, for example, Colgate dominates the page, while its subsidiary, Tom’s of Maine, which beats Colgate by every conceivable sustainability measure, is nowhere to be found. Another problem is that it's only online, and the consumer who buys Fabuloso online is not thinking green to begin with. Ideally she’d be redirected to a better, lower weight solution like Replenish. And, sooner rather than later, the sustainability badge needs to be executed in actual physical stores.
I am a big believer in applauding progress, so hats off to Walmart for this step in the right direction. I also believe, however, that the bigger and more powerful the organization, the higher the expectation that it will use its authority for good.