Wal-Mart unveiled a plan that’s been in the works for a few years to label each product they sell with a ‘sustainability index’, so that consumers may make more informed choices. On the one hand — bravo to Wal-Mart! With their massive size, they really control a lot of the market and trends…for example, their push for health care for all employees, and an effort to carry more organic items, which may *hopefully!* drive some of the costs down on organic foods.
However, I am a little wary of said index….firstly because sustainability is such a complex issue and word that has so many different meanings, so it’s tough to have a clearly ranked system. (ex..is sustainability based on the product itself, the company who manufactures it, how it’s shipped, the country of origin, etc…)
Also, I fear that a sustainability index label could become like another nutrition label…one that does have some meaning to it, but only if you understand what it means, the biases inherent in the label, and the subtleties of the various parts of the label. Even though it is great the Wal-Mart is trying to have a fast, easy way for consumers to recognize and choose products, I think some deeper eduction is necessary for it to have the desired effect and actually affect change in the way goods are produced and manufactured.
Hurrah for trying, though! Even if many consumers do not understand the depth of the index, hopefully placing said index will force companies into more sustainable practices.