Do you have those moments sometimes when you feel like you’re in a really crappy spot?
Those moments if you turn one way you’re going to get a wallop in the face… if you turn the other way you’re going to get a swift kick between the legs…?
Owning a cell phone for example. No matter which way you go at it you’re going to get charged the monthly “system access fee” and “911 coverage” (even if you live in area where there is no 911). Dealing with big banks… there’s a charge for everything – unless of course you have lots of money in the bank. My online investment firm – if I have more than $50,000 with them then there are less charges then if I have $1000. This makes no sense to me – well, OK, I understand why, it just seems like reverse logic.
So then, what does one say when corporations like Wal-Mart make “sustainability” commitments?
They are massive, huge, gravity defying. What do the stats suggest – five of the ten richest people in North America are attached to the Walton-WalMart empire?
When stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s say “no more old growth” lumber; we will only sell eco-certified products?
These types of companies have the ability to almost fundamentally shift entire consumer markets. And environmental organizations recognize this – that’s why they hammer away on mass consumer chain stores to change what they sell.
This was apparent recently when consumer giant Target announced it was not selling farmed salmon anymore at its over 1700 U.S. stores.
In the case of Wal-mart and seafood – it also worked. With pressure from various conservation organizations (and WalMart’s general altruistic nature), Wal-mart announced it was moving to:
Purchase all wild-caught fresh and frozen fish for the U.S. from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries by 2011.
They first announced this initiative in Feb. 2006, just over four years ago:
We believe it’s absolutely essential to take a leadership role in working with suppliers to ensure that the world’s wild fish populations can grow and replenish themselves,” said Peter Redmond, Wal-Mart vice president and divisional merchandise manager of deli and seafood.
Back in February 2006, the company stated that it is “giving non-certified suppliers three to five years to develop plans and programs to become certified. If these suppliers commit to this initiative and succeed within that timeframe, Wal-Mart will continue to work with them.” There were also quotes from the Marine Stewardship Council about how wonderful this is:
“This is a big and exciting development, demonstrating a leadership position,” said Rupert Howes, chief executive of the Marine Stewardship Council. “As part of a wider company commitment to sustainable seafood procurement, Wal-Mart has committed to source, over a number of years, all of its fresh and frozen wild capture supplies for the United States market from fisheries certified against the MSC’s standard. It is hoped that this commitment to the MSC program will encourage other fisheries into the assessment process and provide a powerful new route to raise awareness of sustainable seafood choices with the American public.” [my emphasis]
If you like, you can watch a lovely five minute video at the Walmart website with Walmart, MSC, and Conservation International singing the praises of this program – all backed by lovely music.
I was inspired.
So, yes, Wal-mart can affect mass change. Say for example, every Wal-mart outlet went from standard lightbulbs to energy savers – there would all of a sudden be giga-giga-watts to put back into the electrical grid. Or, if they decided that every roll of toilet paper sold was going to be made from recycled materials. Or, if they started a cost saving initiative and told every employee they had to bring their own toilet paper to work (or better yet just get rid of bathrooms…)
These sorts of initiatives have an impact.
However, there is probably no connection between the Marine Stewardship Council raising the number of “ecocertified” fisheries by over 50% – from just over 40 to 65 now – since the 06 Wal-mart announcement.
If you watch the lovely promotional video with Wal-mart, MSC, and Conservation International executives – you will hear the Wal-mart executive state that one of the most popular seafood products in their stores is “Wild Alaskan salmon”.
So there’s probably no connection with the big push to get British Columbia sockeye salmon fisheries certified even though there is currently a judicial inquiry underway to figure out how the Fraser River sockeye run (the largest sockeye fishery in the province) collapsed this past season and the fishery was closed. (Isn’t certifying a non-fishery kind of like air pie?)
Or British Columbia pink and chum salmon fisheries (still in independent eco-assessment).
I’m also guessing there is no label on those best selling Wal-mart & Marine Stewardship Council certified Alaskan pollock fish sticks that states:
“this fishery is eco-certified; however it is also solely responsible for wiping out the entire Alaskan Yukon River Chinook fishery as the Bering Sea pollock fishery is permitted to catch up to 60,000 Chinook salmon a year as bycatch (more than the actual annual in-river fisheries) which coincidentally is thrown overboard dead as an illegal species ”
“and, oh yeah, that pollock trawling fishery caught over 700,000 other salmon as bycatch a few years ago…”
“And… don’t worry we are going to open a Wal-Mart Supercentre in Nome, Alaska so people up and down the Yukon River can come and get MSC ecocertified fish products from industrial-international trawl fleets to make up for the lost subsistence, food, and small commercial fisheries along the entire 3200 kilometre Yukon River.”
Or better yet, with Wal-Mart’s eco-commitment maybe they can ship out ecocertified fish to rural Yukon River communities from their stores in Whitehorse, Yukon; Fairbanks, Alaska; and Anchorage, Alaska? Maybe fish products from the MSC ecocertified New Zealand hoki trawl fishery that collapsed a few years ago, or the Pacific hake trawl fishery, or the just certified Bering Sea Pacific cod fishery…?
Sure does have an impact when Wal-Mart goes green… just wondering how good that kick between the legs felt for rural folks on the Yukon River?