Big companies are evil. Support small, local businesses. A large corporation could never represent those of us who want to be the change.
Right? It’s so easy to buy into these caricatures. But wouldn’t it be great if the organizations we support hit the big time? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a company with the ethos of a Well.org or small organic farm had the clout of a CNN or a Walmart?
Yes, it’s very popular to believe that all ethics and morality disappear as soon as a company becomes massively successful. But check your skepticism for a moment, and turn the question around. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a company with the clout of a CNN or a Walmart had the ethos of a Well.org or a small organic farm?
What if this jaded meme that equates commercial success with moral sell-out didn’t have to be true? Rather than feel alienated from the big players and assume they don’t represent us, let’s take heart from the realization that they are starting to listen.
Giant meat and processed foods producer Tyson Foods recently pledged to eliminate antibiotics from its poultry. This is one of the biggest suppliers of poultry in the world, not just the U.S. Of course, there should never have been antibiotics in poultry in the first place, and the fact that such a huge player is healing the situation can only be good news.
In a similar vein, Walmart published a new, compassionate stance on animal welfare on May 22, 2015. This is a call to action to their meat, deli, dairy and egg suppliers and a commitment to continuous improvement in the welfare of farm animals in its supply chain. Specifically, according to Walmart’s website:
|First, we expect that our suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind.Second, we support the globally-recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare as an aspiration for animal welfare in our supply chain:
Third, we will work with our supply chain partners to implement practices consistent with the Five Freedoms of animal welfare.
Walmart began life as a five-and-dime, and that’s its enduring image. But Walmart also happens to be the nation’s most popular grocery chain, and it’s been selling groceries since 1988.
Chew on that for a moment. The nation’s most popular grocery store is, at root, a five-and-dime. So it makes sense, then, that whereas in 1960 we spent 17.5 percent of our income on food as a nation, in 2013 that figure was only 9.9 percent. (It’s also worth noting that historically speaking and worldwide, 17.5 percent is already pretty low.) “Pile it high, sell it cheap” has never exactly been a formula for high-quality product, or for ethically-sourced product, or for fair trade… because the priority was low price.
A vast number of low-ticket sales adds up to vast profits overall.
This is how we come to believe that only a few people care about quality, that only a few people can afford quality, that commercial success means cutting corners.
Again, let’s step back and ask ourselves: How are we defining success here? Also, when we opt out of “the majority” and say we wouldn’t be caught dead at a Walmart, we miss the opportunity to define success for Walmart in terms that matter to us.
They are starting to listen:
Walmart is joining forces with archival Target to formulate and promote more sustainable personal care products.
McDonald’s – McDonald’s!! – has announced it won’t be using GMO potatoes in its french fries.
Home design giant IKEA is well into creation of kitchen design optimized for energy efficiency and waste minimization.
Beyond IKEA, initiatives to reduce food waste are on the rise – from apps helping consumers utilize leftovers to organizations linking farmers with purchasers, eliminating the issue of wastage of unsold food.
And of course, the Food Babe has shown the way to quality reform in several giant companies, including Chick-fil-A removing dyes, corn syrup and the preservative TBHQ, and recently Kraft removing artificial food colorings.
The more these big companies make these changes, the more they’re contributing to making the world a better place for everyone. The more the biggest companies make these decisions that benefit everyone, the more they represent us, and the better we can feel about giant American corporations being successful. It’s the triple bottom line in action: planet, people, profit.
We applaud these companies for listening, and we support them in continuing to pursue this version of success.