From the National Center for Public Policy Research -
Despite being CEO of a major company involved in an anti-consumer initiative AND second vice chairman of the board of directors of the trade association implementing it, Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson was strikingly incoherent when asked just how much more he thought middle-income consumers should have to pay for goods just so major retail companies could claim to be environmentalists.
At Walgreens' annual shareholder meeting in Chicago Wednesday, Justin Danhof, Esq., of the free-market shareholder activist group the National Center for Public Policy Research, asked Walgreens CEO Wasson, in part:
Consider a hypothetical shopping cart containing a hundred dollars worth of commonly purchased retail items. How much more would you personally be willing to pay if all of those products were labeled as "sustainable?" And, after that, do you think it is fair to charge low and middle-income Americans -- many of whom are on very tight budgets and just lost a bunch in the so-called fiscal cliff deal -- to pay more for company products because Walgreens and other retailers want to greenwash their images? (full question here)
Wasson replied, in full:
Thank you for your comments. Certainly, I am a member of RILA [the Retail Industry Leaders Association], as you said. You know, I do think that RILA is working to try to drive value-added corporate social responsibility in sustainability. I do think that -- at the same time -- your, your, one of your comments, that we do also work with the local community -- the local establishments -- that we think we can really play a big part as far... part of our strategy to drive our corporate sustainability and social responsibility as well.
So, I guess I would say -- in some cases -- I don't... I wouldn't agree that the small business and small... ah... employers are going to be left out of this. I think there's actually opportunity.
Um... as... as far as... ah... as far as what the cost may be... certainly, we think there's opportunity to drive sustainability... corporate social responsibility without driving costs up. So... acknowledge your comments. Appreciate your comments. And thank you very much.
"Mr. Wasson proved our point," said Danhof, who is general counsel and Free Enterprise Project director of the National Center, "which is that the giants of the retail industry know that their green agenda may increase prices. The Walgreens CEO is incoherent when asked about this, and the closest he can come to defending RILA's anti-consumer actions is to claim there supposedly is an 'opportunity' to 'drive' what he calls 'sustainability' without higher costs. An opportunity only! And notice he doesn't try to claim the retail industry is willing and able to limit itself to the low-cost opportunity he claims exists -- probably because it isn't."
"If it was less expensive for the retail industry to do things the way the environmentalists want," Danhof added, "the industry wouldn't need to force environmentalism on people in order to claim it is 'green.' It would just focus on delivering goods with low prices. All the executives in the retail stores' trade association know this already; they just hope their customers and the American people won't figure it out."
In conjunction with the Walgreens shareholder meeting this week, the National Center for Public Policy Research commissioned a poll that asks American consumers how much more they would be willing to pay for retail items if they are labeled "sustainable."
"I asked Mr. Wasson the same question our poll asks the public, and he refused to give me a direct answer," explained Danhof. "Since our poll is not yet complete, I don't yet know how much more the American people are willing to pay for products that are labeled 'sustainable,' but I'm willing to bet that, unlike Walgreens CEO and RILA Second Vice Chairman Greg Wasson, the American people are willing to give us a straight answer."
"The Retail Industry Leaders Association, or RILA, one of the country's largest trade organizations, is currently pressuring its members to reduce their 'carbon footprint' and adhere to 'sustainability standards' that RILA made up," explained Danhof. "Not only will these standards raise the cost of making and delivering goods, they are hard for many small American businesses to meet. Maybe RILA members are planning to get even more of their goods from huge manufacturers in China, but American workers need jobs."
A transcript of the full Danhof-Wasson exchange at the shareholder meeting can be found here and a video of the exchange here.
The National Center will release the results of the poll when the poll is complete.
The National Center for Public Policy Research is a Walgreens shareholder.