Earlier this week I wrote about the big, luxury brands like Chanel and Versace adopting an eco-conscious ethos to capture more of the green market. Then the pendulum swung 180 degrees with Wal-Mart’s announcement of their new green labeling program.
For those of you who think the green market is not sustainable, think again. Giants like Wal-Mart, as with their upper crust counterparts, don’t invest in passing fads.
So what does this mean to the consumer? Well, if you believe the Wall Street Journal; it’s the potential for tremendous confusion. The article asks what the green product labels will and won’t measure? Who will be policing the accuracy and legitimacy of the labeling program? And do labels truly affect consumer behavior?
We all know Wal-Mart is the low cost leader. How will researching, launching and administering an extensive environmental program like this impact the bottom line? The New York Times reports:
“As the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores is on a mission to determine the social and environmental impact of every item it puts on its shelves. And it has recruited scholars, suppliers, and environmental groups to help it create an electronic indexing system to do that.”
The Environmental Defense Fund is one of the groups that will work with Wal-Mart over the next five years to develop the sustainability index.
What does this green initiative mean for manufacturers? As Wal-Mart dictates what sustainable products go on their shelves, suppliers will no doubt have to retool and invest in new technologies to make their products relevant in retailer’s new green eyes. Who will bare the brunt of that expense? No doubt the consumer. Green may become more expensive, which would also drive down consumption, which is obviously good for the environment.
And what does this mean to the advertiser with product differentiation? Could a time soon come that green and sustainable products are a given – an absolute must in the minds of retailers and consumers – that they become the only way to do business? We should all hope.
Is Wal-Mart the only entity capable of making “sustainable consumption” a retailing reality? Apparently those outside scholars and environmental groups developing the initiative think so. And they’re not alone. Harvard Business believes:
“Wal-Mart’s unilateral decision to put its purchasing and communication power behind going green also shows that a single company using its unique clout can accelerate public action to reduce greenhouse gases and reverse climate change.”