It’s always exciting and encouraging to see companies across the country recognize the benefits of sustainability goals and expand the availability of products with improved environmental characteristics. At the 2014 Walmart Sustainable Product Expo, dozens of leaders and thousands of attendees came together with non-governmental organizations and EPA representatives to learn about sustainability initiatives, share information, and build a network for constructive collaboration and leadership.
At the Expo, EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Product Labeling Program participated alongside SC Johnson & Son, Johnson and Johnson, and DfE Partners—Earth Friendly Products and The Clorox Company—at the “Supplier Panel on Sustainable Chemistry.” Walmart’s new Sustainable Chemistry Initiative will take advantage of the expertise of the DfE Program to offer their customers safer DfE-labeled Walmart- and Sam’s Club-branded products. The DfE Program also helps inform and empower consumers to make safer chemical-based-product choices, wherever they shop. With the DfE Safer Product label’s growing consumer recognition and trusted criteria, the partnership with Walmart and other retailers has the potential to drive meaningful change.
Sustainability in the marketplace is a way of thinking. Companies that pursue sustainability inevitably find that they can meet consumer demands, increase their bottom line, and improve health and the environment. EPA can play a significant role as a partner in voluntary efforts by providing scientific expertise and understanding of health and environmental impacts throughout the supply chain, educating consumers and companies alike, and bringing people to the table to stimulate dialogue and partnerships. While manufacturers have to comply with EPA and other Federal regulations that set a “floor,” voluntary programs open up opportunities for innovation that the leaders at the Expo recognize and are eager to capitalize on.
Safer chemistry was not the sole focus of the Expo. There were numerous sessions over the three days and major announcements that have the potential for far-reaching environment benefits, such as the announcement of a recycling initiative called the Closed Loop Fund, whose goal is to make recycling available to all Americans by investing $100 million in recycling infrastructure projects to transform the recycling system in the United States.
Sustainability requires continuous improvement, innovation and thinking across the board—from materials sourcing, to manufacturing, to agriculture, to transportation of goods, to end-of-life recycling—and will not only reduce our impacts on our environment and the climate, but help us adapt and remain resilient in the face of climate change and other environmental challenges.
At the end of the day, EPA, non-governmental organizations and companies share the same customers—you, the American public. As partners, we can envision and lead the way to a more sustainable future for all Americans.