HACKENSACK, N.J. - Retailers over the past decade have worked to reduce the environmental cost of the products they sell and the stores they sell them in. Now, a conservative, free-market think tank is questioning the financial cost of being "green."
Justin Danhof, general counsel of the Washington, D.C.-based National Center for Public Policy Research, appeared at a half-dozen retailers' shareholders meetings recently, including the Bed Bath & Beyond annual meeting in Morris Township, N.J., to ask those retailers to prepare a cost-benefit analysis of their environmentally friendly sustainability efforts.
"It appears that retailers are trying to cleanse their guilt over selling consumer products by advancing this green initiative," Danhof said, in a statement he read to Bed Bath & Beyond directors. The National Center for Policy Research is concerned, Danhof said, that "suppliers, customers and shareholders" are paying for the corporate green campaigns.
Bed Bath executives responded that their sustainability efforts -- which are designed to reduce waste and energy use -- allow Bed Bath & Beyond and its suppliers to save money, with policies that are also good for the environment and consumers.
Retail groups and marketing experts echoed those comments, saying that U.S. retailers have adopted green campaigns voluntarily, partly because consumers want them to, but mainly because they have found that such policies save them money. They said they are baffled by the center's campaign against voluntary environmentalism.
"Green is now mainstream," said Jacquelyn Ottman, an expert in green marketing and author of "The New Rules of Green Marketing."
Retailers have also embraced the trend because it saves them money, Ottman said. "This is another reason why they are bullish on this, and this is why Wal-Mart is doing it -- because they realize they can save money from an operational standpoint," she said.