02 Oct 2013 Free-Market Proponents Laud Sears for Taking a Stance Against Trade Association’s “Sustainability” Folly
Hoffman Estates, IL / Washington, D.C. – Policy experts with the National Center for Public Policy Research are praising Sears CEO Edward Lampert for standing up against burdensome environmental regulations pushed by a trade association that could drastically reduce Sears’ profitability and shareholder value.
“The retail market is in flux, and Sears is not immune to market challenges such as increased online competition and Americans’ decreasing disposable incomes,” explained Justin Danhof, Esq., director of the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project. “Despite tough headwinds, it is encouraging that Lampert appears firm in his free market principles and not willing to risk his company’s margins on a fringe environmental platform.”
Sears is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) – a massive trade association that promotes top-down sustainability mandates at the expense of American consumers. These standards also harm the manufacturers and suppliers that remain essential cogs in the dwindling American workforce.
Does management support the idea of RILA imposing sustainability standards on its members, or is it opposing mandatory sustainability standards and standing up for the right of each retailer to make its own decisions regarding the best way for each individual retailer to lawfully satisfy the needs of its customers?
Lampert responded that he is personally no fan of “coercive solutions,” such as top down standards, and that, in his view, “America is overregulated” as it is.
Since the Sears shareholder meeting, RILA has doubled-down on its environmentalist efforts by publishing its “2013 Retail Sustainability Report,” in which it states:
Companies will often develop individual or industry voluntary programs to reduce the need for government regulations. If a retail company minimizes its waste generation, energy and fuel usage, land-use footprint, and other environmental impacts, and strives to improve the labor conditions of the workers across its product supply chains, it will have a competitive advantage when regulations are developed.
“This statement sums up RILA’s mission creep – to be a quasi-governmental regulator that works toward the same ends as D.C.’s current regulatory morass,” said Danhof. “Kudos to Lampert for not taking this green, regulatory bait.”
Starting in early 2012, National Center staffers began confronting the CEOs of five major retailers who are all members of RILA – Target, J.C. Penney, Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap and CVS Caremark – about their engagement with RILA. Through its Free Enterprise Project, the National Center demanded these corporate leaders explain how RILA’s goals are consistent with their fiduciary duties to increase shareholder value, and explained how they could adversely affect customers.
And the retail industry took notice. Prominent retail writer Joan Verdon wrote an article detailing the National Center’s work to expose RILA that appeared in more than a dozen major publications nationwide including Bloomberg Businessweek, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
In early 2013, the National Center’s Free Enterprise Project continued to pressure RILA members regarding their complicity with RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Through the shareholder resolution process, National Center Chairman Amy Ridenour and Free Enterprise Project Director Justin Danhof, Esq. had conversations with top executives at Best Buy and received assurances that the company would not pursue any RILA initiatives that, in their view, contradict best business practices dictated by the free market.
Also in early 2013, Danhof asked Walgreens CEO Greg Wasson how much more a consumer should have to pay for retail products so that RILA members can push so-called sustainable goods. Totally flustered and baffled by the very simple question, Wasson became incoherent and was unable to answer or defend his company’s sustainability practices in any meaningful way. Writing for the Motley Fool, Gene Koprowski praised Danhof’s question at the Walgreens meeting, and warned would-be company investors, saying: “I agree that that is an excellent question to ask, and suggest that investors refrain from buying shares of Walgreens until CEO Greg Wasson can provide a solid answer to the query.”
Last month, the National Center again called on Wasson to come clean about Walgreens’ dealings with RILA. So far, Wasson remains silent.
Furthermore, at the 2013 Costco shareholder meeting, Danhof confronted company CEO Craig Jelinek and asked him if he would reject any RILA initiatives that would harm Costco’s bottom line. Jelinek refused to answer.
Last week, the National Center again urged Jelinek to rebuff any RILA plans that might cause harm to his company or raise prices. Like Wasson, Jelinek remains silent.
In the first half of 2013, the National Center also confronted the CEO of Home Depot, educating him about RILA’s new monopoly agenda. Following the Home Depot meeting, National Center President David Ridenour privately discussed the issue of RILA’s new monopoly with company CEO Francis Blake and other top executives. They assured Ridenour that the company does not always agree with RILA and would not pursue an initiative that would harm customers or the bottom line in the name of going green.
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