Walmart, often reviled for its impact on the planet, is introducing a new effort to help consumers make more sustainable choices.
That’s just the latest salvo in the company’s uphill battle to gain credibility with increasingly skeptical consumers.
The announcement coincides with a ruling from a California judge dismissing a suit Greenpeace, the environmentalist watchdog, brought against the retailer. The suit alleged Walmart made false and misleading claims about its sustainability practices.
Walmart unveiled “Built for Better” on its corporate blog. The online and mobile shopping destination uses distinctive icons that make it easier for customers to find products “that meet independent and authoritative standards for promoting personal well-being and reducing our impact on the environment,” it says.
The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer says the selected products are based on two general categories. “Built for Better -- For You” items include meats, produce, detergents and cosmetics chosen because they are free from ingredients many watchdog groups oppose. They include items that have been verified by outside organizations, including Great for You, EWG Verified and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX.
Others are classed under Walmart’s “Built for Better -- For the Planet” banner, recognizing products that have met the standards of organizations like Energy Star Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified and Better Cotton Initiative.
The idea, writes Jane Ewing, Walmart’s senior vice president of sustainability, is to streamline the sometimes bewildering array of eco-friendly claims. “We know shopping with purpose often takes extra time,” she writes. “It requires researching products and reading labels, all of which can be overwhelming for our busy customers.”
She adds that the new push is just one part of Walmart's program to become a regenerative business. Its ambitious sustainability goals include achieving zero waste in the U.S. and Canada by 2025, including 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging for all private-label brands.
Still, environmental groups have long accused the massive retailer of greenwashing.
Greenpeace filed its suit late last year, saying Walmart “uses unlawful, unfair, and deceptive business practices by incorrectly labeling and advertising its various private label throwaway plastic products and packaging as recyclable.”
U.S. District Court Judge Maxine Chesney dismissed the suit, claiming the organization lacked standing to sue.
“Walmart sells more products packaged in throwaway plastic than almost any other polluter in the world,” said John Hocevar, campaign director for Greenpeace USA Oceans, in response to the suit dismissal. “Big brands know their customers are growing concerned about plastic pollution, but instead of addressing real solutions, they have opted for greenwashing.”
And it seems Walmart’s ongoing sustainability efforts have been gaining traction. This year, Barron’s ranked it as No. 74 in the “100 Most Sustainable Companies.”