I’m on the road today, on the New York Thruway and on the way to my family’s farm in Ohio for some much needed downtime. It’s a fifteen hour drive so there’s plenty of time to sit back and reflect. Jerry Garcia’s sketchy voice provides the perfect accompaniment to my journey . .. “Truckin. . .got my chips cashed in . . Truckin . . .like the do-darn man . . .”
And there are lots of trucks. Wal-Mart trucks. Which makes me think . . .
A few weeks ago, Wal-Mart announced an initiative to get its suppliers to add environment impact labels to their products. Several days later I heard a really interesting piece on National Public Radio about this project. The piece noted that Wal-Mart itself is a heavy consumer of petroleum products, because it ships most of its products for resale from overseas and then trucks them all across the US to its various stores. I’ll confess upfront that I was only half listening to the NPR piece, but the gist of it seemed to be that Wal-Mart needed to compensate for its own carbon footprint by pressuring its suppliers to disclose theirs.
As I watch yet another Wal-Mart truck drive by on this long interstate, it makes wonder whether the retail giant has taken its intriguing initiative far enough. If, as NPR suggests, Wal-Mart is consuming so much fuel, then wouldn’t FULL disclosure require Wal-Mart to label its products with the total environmental impact – including the impact of getting those products all the way to the shelf? What if the environmental impact of transportation is greater than the impact of manufacturing, for many of the products Wal-Mart sells? Will we ever know?
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