Walmart recently announced that it would stock a selection of lower-cost organic packaged foods. A storm of positive press followed, including two U.S. News columns (here and here) by David Brodwin of the American Sustainable Business Council, who argued that, despite Walmart’s many sins, it was doing good in this case by legitimatizing and mainstreaming sustainable products in the eyes of consumers, investors, the media, and other companies.
I’m a big fan of David’s work, and of ASBC, but I think he’s got this one backward. The story that Walmart created with its announcement was not: Wow, organics have changed. They’ve gone mainstream. (That’s not really news, after all.) Instead, the story was: Wow, Walmart has changed. It’s gone organic. In other words, Walmart is not legitimizing organic foods so much as using organic foods to legitimize its own business model.
To me, the pivotal question that…
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