Walgreens Execs, Public to be Polled on Sustainability Costs

06/04/2015 11:00

by Judy Kent


Chicago, IL / Washington, DC - A representative of the National Center for Public Policy Research plans to question Walgreens' President and Chief Executive Officer Gregory D. Wasson about the retail store's push for potentially-costly sustainability efforts during the company's annual shareholder meeting in Chicago, Illinois.

The questioning will be done in tandem with a national poll the National Center has commissioned asking the public essentially the same question it intends to ask Walgreens' executives: How much extra are you willing to have products cost in order to call them "sustainable"?

The National Center intends to compare the opinions of business executives to those of the public at-large.

Walgreens is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country's largest trade organizations, representing more than 200 companies and many of the largest American retail chains. RILA is currently pressuring its membership to adhere to the association's new sustainability policy. This policy directs retailers to reduce their "carbon footprint" through reduced "greenhouse gas" emissions. It also requires adherence to sustainability standards that involve the possible redesign and rating of products.

"Unemployment remains stubbornly high, consumer prices are going up and many household budgets are shrinking. This is no time for retailers to further raise consumer prices in the name of so-called 'sustainability,'" said National Center Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. "Walgreens' corporate leaders should explain the business rationale for their sustainability agenda in the face of uncertain economic times. They must also detail to company shareholders, suppliers and consumers how much these green efforts are costing the company, and how much its products are marked up to cover those costs."  To learn more about RILA's sustainability push, read here.

"Perhaps Mr. Wasson is a true believer, and he is willing to put his money where his mouth is. He is in a financial position to do so," said Danhof. "But one thing is for certain, he should not place his own green ideology ahead of the welfare of his company's customers and shareholders."

In addition to potentially harming consumers and shareholders, the company's sustainability goals may also harm its suppliers. Under forced sustainability standards, suppliers will see their manufacturing costs necessarily skyrocket as they are forced to pay more for packaging, recyclable materials, "efficient" (i.e., expensive) energy, staffing and compliance. Small suppliers, who cannot satisfy this new burden, may lose their competitiveness and go bankrupt.

"The strength of small businesses and consumer spending are two major drivers of the American economy. Walgreens and other RILA members should reexamine this new sustainability effort and focus instead on pro-growth and pro-consumer opportunities," said Danhof.  A copy of Justin Danhof's question at the shareholder meeting, as prepared for delivery, can be found here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Walgreens shareholder.