Trader Joe’s Bags Supplier

Discussion
Aug 17, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson


Trader Joe’s is being praised by the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) for its
decision to stop buying bags from Weyerhaeuser, a company the environmental
groups calls “the number one destroyer of old growth forests in North America.”


The retailer issued a statement on its decision. “For some time, we have been
reviewing our purchasing of paper grocery bags, among other supply items, with
the goal of consolidating our purchases nationally. After careful review of
our total supply chain economics, we have made the decision to consolidate our
purchasing of paper bags with our current East Coast supplier. As a result of
this consolidation, we are currently not issuing purchase orders to Weyerhaeuser
for paper bags.”


Although Trader Joe’s was praised by the environmental group, the retailer
doesn’t appear ready to return the compliment. In the same release announcing
its stance on sourcing paper bags, Trader Joe’s said it was responding publicly
on the issue because it had “received numerous letters from customers who appear
to have been given outdated or erroneous information by the activist group Rainforest
Action Network concerning our purchases of paper grocery bags.”


At Weyerhaeuser’s annual shareholders’ meeting in April, company chairman,
president and chief operating officer Steve Rogel cited the company’s stewardship
of natural resources and called on critics of the company to engage with it
in a “meaningful and civil dialogue.”


Mr. Rogel said, “The wellbeing of our forests is too important to be reduced
to inaccurate or misleading sound bites, single cause approaches or dialogues
between only two parties. There are many voices that must be heard. Communities.
Aboriginal peoples. Consumers. Environmentalists. Forest scientists. Government
officials. And, of course, the industry itself.”


Moderator’s Comment: How can a retailer, in this case
Trader Joe’s, publicly disagree or take issue with the approach of a group (Rainforest
Action Network) that appears to represent a core constituency of the company
without alienating those customers? Are you aware of similar situations where
a similar type of conflict occurred?


TJ’s played it absolutely right in this case saying it
was taking the action requested but not because of any pressure exerted by any
group. Furthermore, it advised its own customers not to believe everything they
read or hear from groups such as the Rainforest Action Network. Our guess is
that, when it comes to trust, most TJ customers will give the retailer the nod
over this particular environmental group.


As a loyal TJ shopper and dedicated hugger of trees, we’d
like to suggest to the Rainforest Action Network that they may not like what
Steve Rogel has to say but his words make common sense. “We must engage in the
right dialogue — a dialogue that moves beyond the narrow question of ‘cut’
or ‘don’t cut.’  If we do, we’ll arrive at an answer that is supported
by all stakeholders.  It will be an answer based on good science and combines
social, environmental and economic values.”


George Anderson – Moderator

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