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Photo: Plastic bags at Walmart checkout line.
Featured Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Mar 5, 2015

Walmart’s New Green Product Label Is the Most Misleading Yet

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/walmarts-misleading-green-product-label/

This piece was written by ILSR’s Stacy Mitchell, and first published by Grist.

A giant, 150-foot roll of bubble wrap may not be your idea of an environmentally friendly product, but over at Walmart.com this one-pound ball of plastic now boasts a special “Sustainability Leaders” badge. It’s one of more than 3,000 products tagged with this new green label, which Walmart executives unveiled last week, together with a web portal where shoppers can find these items.

Dozens of news accounts hailed the giant retailer’s move as a significant step toward clearing up the confusion and misleading information that often greet consumers trying to make ecologically responsible choices. “The world’s largest retailer took a major and important step toward helping all of us shop more smartly,” declared corporate sustainability consultant Andrew Winston in Harvard Business Review. Triple Pundit concurred: “It’s about to get a lot easier for Walmart.com shoppers to make the responsible choice.”

Actually, a green-minded online shopper is likely to find Walmart’s new badge confusing, murky, and downright misleading. I searched the bubble wrap’s product page high and low for its secret sauce, the invisible feature that makes it a smarter choice amid the many seemingly less harmful packing options available, but found no explanation.

It turns out that the key to this mystery lies in a remarkable disclaimer tucked into the middle of the home page of Walmart’s sustainability shopping portal: “The Sustainability Leaders badge does not make representations about the environmental or social impact of an individual product.”

Well then. Once again Walmart has engineered an appealing media story about itself as a green innovator that has little to do with reality.

Here’s how the retailer’s new badge works: Walmart awards the label to products made by companies that it deems to be sustainability leaders in particular product categories, such as plastic toys or dairy foods. Those that win the label get to use it on all of their products in that category, regardless of how harmful or toxic some items might be.

To decide which of its suppliers are “leaders,” Walmart sends them a survey with about a dozen questions. Neither the questions nor the responses are public. The only thing we know is that the questions were developed by the Sustainability Consortium, a collaboration funded by about 100 big-name companies and groups, including many of the world’s largest retail and consumer products brands. Launched with a seed grant from Walmart, the consortium is managed by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University, both of which have deep financial ties to the company. Since 2009, the Walton family, the billionaire clan that owns more than half of Walmart, has donated at least $49 million to these two universities.

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Featured Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Olivia LaVecchia | No Comments | Updated on Mar 4, 2015

At U.S. Supreme Court, an Invitation to Reconsider Internet Sales Tax Ruling

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/us-supreme-court-invitation-reconsider-internet-sales-tax-ruling/

After years of fighting for a federal fix for the online sales tax loophole, this week, advocates for e-fairness gained a new ally: U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy. Continue reading

Photo: David Carr.
Featured Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Stacy Mitchell | No Comments | Updated on Feb 18, 2015

Remembering David Carr, and His Writing on Monopoly Power

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/remembering-david-carr-writing-monopoly-power/

What will we do without David Carr, the brilliant media columnist at the New York Times who died last week? At ILSR, we will especially miss his writing on monopoly power, Amazon, and the book business. We’ve excerpted and linked to a few of his best recent pieces on those subjects. Continue reading

Photo: Open Streets in northeast Minneapolis.
Featured Article filed under Independent Business | Written by Olivia LaVecchia | No Comments | Updated on Feb 23, 2015

The Do-It-Yourselves Downtown

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/do-it-yourselves-downtown-investment-cooperative-model/

In the vacuum left by both traditional economic development and Wall Street’s approach to finance, community real estate investment cooperatives offer a glimpse of a better way to channel capital, with benefits that include new jobs in the neighborhood, strong incentives for people to shop locally, local sources for key goods, closer ties with neighbors, and a return on investment. Continue reading

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Featured Article, ILSR Press Room, Resource filed under Independent Business | Written by Olivia LaVecchia | No Comments | Updated on Feb 11, 2015

Buoyed by Public Support, Independent Businesses Report Strong Sales Growth, National Survey Finds

The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at http://ilsr.org/2015-independent-business-survey-independent-businesses-report-strong-sales-growth/

Independent businesses saw strong sales growth in 2014 as more consumers embraced the “buy local” movement and ditched big companies in favor of supporting local retailers and small-scale producers, according to a large national survey released today. Continue reading