More WalMart news, this time of a positive nature.
The $300-billion global cotton industry uses more pesticides and synthetic fertilizers than any other crop. Cotton Inc., the industry trade group, says that's nothing to worry about, but you don't have to be a scientist to know that applying tons and tons of pesticides to the soil - more than 50 million pounds in the United States alone - probably isn't a good thing.
"Those toxins don't stop at the field, but can leach into the
waterways, and may eventually find their way into animals, food and
children," Scott said in a speech last year.
You probably know by now that Wal-Mart has launched a sweeping drive to adopt business practices that are good for the environment. You may have heard that Wal-Mart has been selling organic cotton. This is the story behind the story - how and why the company got involved, and how it's changing an industry.
The story begins, not with Scott, but with a woman named Coral Rose. A native of southern California, Rose buys organic food, wears organic clothes and uses all-natural cleaning products for her home.
"I've lived an organic lifestyle for about 15 years," says Rose. Both her parents died of cancer; that'll get you thinking about chemicals in the air, water and food supply. Rose worked for the clothing chain Wet Seal before joining Sams Club, a division of Wal-Mart, as a ladies apparel buyer.
In the spring of 2004 - before Wal-Mart launched its sustainability initiative - she placed an order for organic cotton yoga outfits for Sams Club.
Although Sams Club is aimed at owners of small businesses, the stores stock a limited selection of women's clothes, as a "pick-me-up" for customers who are there to buy other stuff, Rose explains.
The pastel-colored yoga tops sold for less than $10, the loose-fitting pants for less than $14. They were a big hit - about 190,000 units sold out in 10 weeks.
That got Lee Scott's attention. "We gave our customers something they wanted, but something they might not have been able to afford at specialty stores," he said. It was an early sign that Wal-Mart's working-class and middle-income customers would be willing to buy "green" products, so long as they were affordable.