Retailers flex muscle to do what’s right

May 04, 2011

Retailers give voice to those with none. Will it gain them new respect and business from customers?

Are retailers taking their gatekeeper role more seriously and looking beyond classic negotiations that ensure the right mix and fair prices for shoppers? Are they extending their reach to benefit quality of life and stand for something more meaningful in their communities?

Retailers probably feel they’ve been doing this for a long time – hiring locals, aiding charities and food banks, and more. Yet two stories this past month appear to us at The Lempert Report as signs that retailers, like many of their customers, are caught up in the post-recession sweep of caring more for neighbors. Even smaller stores with big hearts can make a difference.

Take three grocers in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, for example. An Associated Supermarket, the Park Slope Food Co., and Royal Supermarket are refusing to sell a particular brand of hummus until the manufacturer pays $250,000 in back wages to its employees, according to a report in the Brooklyn Paper. This supplier may be learning the hard way that news gets out in today’s transparent world, and secrets are few. 

On a larger scale, Whole Foods Market is bringing new vigor to its ten-year-old partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council, a certification body for sustainable, wild-caught seafood. The chain gives shoppers transparent information about the sustainability status of non-MSC certified, wild-caught seafood and features color-coded, science-based sustainability ratings for wild-caught seafood created by partners Blue Ocean Institute and Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"What Whole Foods tells shoppers has opened a terrific dialogue at the seafood counter. Shoppers are flexing their buying power to prompt change and help reverse trends of overfishing, exploitation and depletion in so many fisheries,” says David Pilat, global seafood coordinator for the chain.

It’s refreshing to see retailers advocate for what they feel is right, and provide a voice for people and species that had no platform before. When stores stand for principles beyond profit, they can add new valuable dimensions to their own brand.