Is Walmart Really Going Local?
If you’re wondering if Walmart’s latest announcement is a sign of changing times — if a giant megastore is capable of truly making a renewed commitment to sustainable practices within an industrial food production model — you are not alone. When the largest retailer of food in the United States says they want to adjust its business model to adapt to consumer priorities like sustainability, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
It’s certainly possible that this is just a case of corporate greenwashing — that is, Walmart is merely hijacking a message that clearly appeals to consumers. But isn’t getting more local, sustainable produce sold in any grocery store a good thing? It depends how it’s done, and what you call local and sustainable.
When it comes to claims about sustainability, the devil is always in the details: how will Walmart define their standards for sustainability? How will they measure the environmental stewardship of their local suppliers? And perhaps the most critical questions — will the company offer fair prices to local farmers? Or will they lock them into financially destructive contracts that involve expensive upgrades or expansions of their farms to meet large-scale demand?
Walmart’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Leslie A. Dach said, “When we do this on Walmart’s scale, we can deliver a global food supply that improves health and livelihoods around the world.” But Walmart’s scale is a big part of the problem in our food system. It’s going to take more than marketing campaigns to fix that.