Well, fortunately Seventh Generation's Chief Inspired Protagonist Jeffrey Hollender saved me a phone call, sharing his thoughts on his blog on how the socially-conscious company par excellence from Vermont could get in bed with what is likely to many of his customers a company representing the entire antithesis of the world they want to live in.
Here's Hollender (who, it should be noted, is a sometimes TreeHugger contributor):
So why are we selling to Walmart? The short answer is because it's time and we should. By this, I mean two things:
- First that Walmart is not the same company it was even five years ago. It's a much different organization that has fairly dramatically and with little fanfare transformed itself into a serious sustainability leader. A few months ago, I wrote a long post about just how much remarkable progress the retailer has made and the tremendous level of positive influence it's now wielding on its employees, customers, suppliers, and communities. I won't repeat all that here. Suffice it to say that Walmart has come a very long way and is committed to going a great deal further.
- Second, Walmart's size means we'll reach people and places we couldn't reach before and help countless more families lead safer, healthier lives. From rural outposts to inner cities, we'll get much closer to fulfilling our mission to help all consumers protect the planet and themselves from harm.
Seventh Generation Will Help Walmart Educate Consumers
Hollender goes on to say that Seventh Generation will also be helping a Walmart working group improve the safety of chemical-intensive products, as well as helping them educate customers about why what products they choose to buy genuinely matters.
Summing up, Hollender says, "I've given all this a great deal of thought, and I'm not the only one -- many of us here at Seventh Generation have been deliberating on this for a long time. In the end, the consensus was clear: Between our longstanding mission and Walmart's legitimate turnaround, it's time to move beyond past, acknowledge the present, and work together toward what can be."
Which is frankly, had I been asked to guess what the response would be, pretty much exactly what I would have said Hollender, or any other Seventh Generation representative, would've said.
Can Walmart Move From Being Tolerated to Being Embraced by Greens?
I guess the big question that sticks in my mind, in light of the genuine improvements that Walmart has made on the environmental front, whether they can ever live down the stigma of being the big box retailer with a reputation for highly questionable labor practices and being the easy-shot symbol of all that is wrong with US consumerism?
Are Walmart's significant efforts to make their product chain more environmentally friendly enough to enable them to be embraced, not just begrudgingly tolerated as the biggest retailer in the world (and therefore a force which has to be acknowledged), by the environmental community, let alone those people working for social justice and local businesses?
More on Walmart & Seventh Generation:
Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever to Happen to Retail?
Walmart Announces They Will Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases From Supply Chain by 2015
Wal-Mart Aims to Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescents In One Year
Seventh Generation CEO Jeffrey Hollender on "Big Green Lies" and Earth Day
Seventh Generation CIP Jeffrey Hollender Speaks Out on Chemical Reform
Seventh Generation Buys Sustainable Palm Kernel Oil Credits, For Its Entire Product Line