he world's biggest retailer is going local, vowing to double its sales of produce from farms near its stores by 2015. The move is part of Walmart's push to support smaller farms in the U.S. and overseas, while encouraging producers to cut back on fertilizers, pesticides, and energy consumption. Though local fruits and vegetables will still only account for 9 percent of the produce the company sells, Walmart's sheer size means that the "groundbreaking" program could have a big impact on the farming industry. While the green initiative is earning raves, not all commentators are convinced:
Even Walmart haters should applaud: "It's becoming increasingly difficult to vilify Walmart," says Ariel Schwartz at Fast Company. Sure, it has driven plenty of mom-and-pop grocers out of business. But the company is so big it has the power to change the entire U.S. agriculture system for the better. "As long as it continues to wield its powers for good, we won't complain."
"Walmart doubling sales of produce from local farms"
It's just PR unless Walmart invests in farming: Walmart gets great publicity out of this, says nutrition expert Marion Nestle in The Huffington Post, and it won't cost the company a dime. Walmart is "the 800-pound gorilla" in the grocery industry, and can demand "whatever it wants from its suppliers, and at the lowest possible cost." Until Walmart commits to paying local farmers "decently for what they produce," this will be an empty gesture.
"Is Wal-Mart's sustainability strategy for real?
Good for Walmart, good for the planet: It's understandable that some suspect Walmart of just trying to look "green," says James Epstein-Reeves at Forbes. But the retail giant understands that buying and selling local produce is good for both its image and the planet. And now that the biggest grocer on Earth has made a commitment to "leverage its power," sustainable agriculture is in for "a huge shot in the arm." It's a win-win.
"Walmart flexes its sustainability muscles"
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