I've been trying for years. As a starving college student who really could have used their "Always Low Prices," I refused to shop there because they didn't provide decent benefits for their workers. In my late 20s, I boycotted it because every time the big box mammoth infiltrated a community, it seemed like a local downtown dried up. Lately, I've avoided their "Save Money, Live Better" philosophy because, well, because I've always avoided it. Plus, I thought I was living just fine without shopping at Walmart.
But then in March, writer Corby Kummer penned a thought-provoking article on why Walmart, and not Whole Foods, will save the farm and make America healthy. I remember thinking, "What the hell??" when I read the article, published in the March 2010 issue of The Atlantic, a publication one would not expect to find a pro-Walmart article. At the end, when Corby admitted if there were a Walmart closer to where he lived, he would probably shop there, my hatred began to soften.
And now today, the Mother of Top Fortune 500 companies has to go and announce this little gem: "Walmart unveils global sustainable agriculture goals: retailer will buy more from small and mid-sized farmers around the world; reduce food waste; and sustainably source key agricultural products."
Ahhh, come on Walmart. I want to hate you, but now you're going to save the world by helping small farmers earn more income for their products, reduce the environmental impact of farming, and strengthen local economies by providing customers around the world with long-term access to affordable, high-quality, fresh food?
Yeah, I copied that last part word for word from Wal-Mart's press release, published on PR Newswire. It's such a well-written and captivating press release, that even Yahoo Finance published it word-for-word, with no reaction from industry. Big sigh. Makes me wish I were still a reporter.
So, in case you're wondering how Walmart is going to save the world, here's a hint. The company has announced even its global markets have established country specific commitments. For example:
- In India, Walmart will source 50 percent of its fresh produce through its Direct Farm Program;
- In China, it will upgrade 15 percent of Direct Farm products from Green to Organic certified;
- In Japan, Walmart will reduce in-store food waste by 35 percent and increase the number of produce farmers it sources from directly from 15,000 to 17,000;
- In Canada, it will purchase 30 percent of the produce assortment locally on an annual basis.
Meanwhile, back home in the U.S., Walmart's own Heritage Agriculture program, launched earlier this year and praised by some, but criticized by others, will help the company double the sale of locally grown food. Three of Walmart's largest Heritage Agriculture programs are in the I-95 corridor along the East coast, the Delta region in the South and the Midwest. Sourcing examples include tomatoes, blueberries and broccoli in the I-95 corridor, peaches, cucumbers and strawberries in the Delta region and potatoes, onions and apples in the Midwest program.
The press release doesn't mention cheese, but who knows? Maybe Walmart will start its own Super Duper Local America's Dairyland Specialty Cheese Program Designed to Save the Dairy Industry and procure all of its cheese from Wisconsin. That would be cool. That might actually make me start shopping at Walmart. Until then, I'll only believe the rhetoric when farmers tell me they see results instead of press releases.