Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Green Future?

-by Whitney Coble

This post is in response to Future Supply Chain.  I recently learned about an unusual partnership between Wal-Mart and Patagonia that seems to fall in line with this article.

In Wal-Mart, Patagonia Team to Green Business, Monte Burke looks at the unusual relationship between these two well-known companies.  They seem as different as possible - Wal-Mart, for example, is 1300 times as big as Patagonia.

However, Patagonia has helped Wal-Mart decide how to green its supply chain for free with the following results:

  • Patagonia is helping Wal-Mart develop a sustainability index for its products
  • Wal-Mart eventually wants to score its products on eco-friendliness and social impact; suppliers who best comply will be chosen 
  • Patagonia has mainly helped Wal-Mart regarding the clothing supply chain (i.e. the amount of water and pesticides used in the manufacturing of garments)
Of particular interest to me is what Patagonia feels like it is getting out of this partnership.  Jill Dumain, Patagonia's environmental-strategy director said, "We're not big enough to make this the industry standard on our own.  We need them to do it, too."  In this vein, Patagonia has also forged similar relationships with Nike, the Gap, REI, North Face, Ikea, etc.

Also, of interesting note, Patagonia believes that one of the reasons that Wal-Mart is motivated to make this effort is that they want to do it before the government inflicts its own environmental standards upon them.  

What impact do you think Wal-Mart's leadership in this area will have on the rest of the market?  In what other areas (i.e., healthcare) could social enterprises or socially responsible businesses team up together to form mutually beneficial solutions?  Are there any downsides to this partnership?

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