Walmart has for the last couple of years laid down some pretty tough environmental standards for their suppliers to meet such as  banning chemicals and reduced packaging.  Chemical & Engineering News, Feb 8, 2010 p.38, reports that Walmart's Alberto Luis Dominguez, merchandise manager for household paper goods and chemicals, said to the Soap & Detergents Association last month, “We learned it was too heavy-handed an approach. Governments ban stuff. I’m not sure it’s Walmart’s role to go out and ban stuff.”  Apparently, Walmart now believes in "collaboration."

Maybe.  Their "sustainability index" 15 question survey is pretty intimidating.  The collaborative part must be the use of the Sustainability Consortium they are enticing big companies to join to further develop the concepts behind the index (though not the index itself according to the site).

I'm all for companies exploring how to move toward more sustainable products and incorporating life cycle thinking into how they do business and support their products.  I also agree that companies with the clout of Walmart have no business banning chemicals.  It's hard enough for government agencies to do a balanced review of appropriate risk management without knee-jerk responses to the latest NGO chemical black list addition.

Product stewardship should be the driver. A company has to maintain continuous assurance that appropriate management of environmental, health and safety is occurring throughout the life cycle of its products. That doesn't happen just by relying on a black list.  It comes from understanding the hazards and exposures and use practices by each actor in the supply chain through to ultimate disposal.  It's a shared responsibility by everyone involved with a product's life cycle.

Read more about my thoughts on product stewardship here.

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