Indeed, sustainable business makes for strange bedfellows. Just this week, Seventh Generation announced it will soon offer its environmentally-friendly products in more than 1500 Walmart stores nationwide and on Walmart.com. And according to Treehugger, this is a complete about-face for the “esteemed nontoxic, enviro-friendly household product maker”.
Not so long ago, Seventh Generation refused to play nice with the big retailer, because it believed Walmart’s practices were “unsustainable and worker-unfriendly”. So why the change of heart? Did Seventh Generation sell out? Say it isn’t so Jeffrey Hollender! Or is Walmart trying to boost its green cred with a little greenwashing? The questions keep piling up and the debate continues…
Whenever Walmart and sustainability are used in the same sentence, two distinct camps of opinion emerge – corporate greenwashing and corporate social responsibility. I tend to join the happy campers in corporate social responsibility.
Yes, Walmart is a symbol of our wasteful, consumer-driven culture, but the mega-retailer isn’t going away any time soon… at least not in our lifetime. So why not applaud Walmart’s efforts – no matter how small – to become more environmentally-friendly and socially-conscious? One small change by Walmart can have a huge impact on the world’s supply chain in general.
As for Seventh Generation, it appears the company is eager to get its products and message in front of perhaps a more economically and socially diverse demographic. And that’s a good thing. Also, I find it hard to believe that Seventh Generation and Jeffrey Hollender, the company’s Chief Inspired Protagonist (love the title), do not have a more strategic plan for this partnership. According to their press release…
“Seventh Generation will extend its influence in the industry by partnering with Walmart on several key initiatives, including participation in Walmart’s Chemical Intensive Products Sustainable Network, which has developed an ingredient screening program for household and personal care products sold at Walmart. The partnership also allows Seventh Generation to extend its leadership in transparency and consumer education on the environmental footprints of its products, where Seventh Generation will engage with Walmart and other retailers and companies working to develop the science to support a sustainability index through The Sustainability Consortium.”
So I ask… what’s wrong with one sustainable business trying to help another business become more sustainable?
Image credit: jason.mundy via Flickr under a CC license