How Walmart Could Change The World With A Quarter

Change is hard…until it isn’t.

Plastic shopping bags, your time has come(to pay your freight), at Walmart at least. While its undoubtable that the bags have a terrible impact in the environment (and perhaps humans via the food chain), it is less clear that the bags have less of a manufacturing impact than other options, but this isn’t why Walmart should implement a change to the way it handles product bagging.

Thoughtful Advertising by the Surfrider Foundation

Walmart is an Every Day Low Price(EDLP) brand, a strategy which it delivers through Every Day Low Cost (EDLC). Giving away free plastic bags is in opposition to this strategy, its a convenience benefit to Walmart customers which is built into the price they pay for items. As anyone that traverses a 6+ acre parking lot knows, Walmart isn’t a convenience store. By simply charging .25¢ per bag, Walmart could change consumer behavior and ultimately lead the global retail industry in moving to a more sustainable option. Plastic Bag usage has dropped a whopping 85% in the UK since it instituted a 5 pence charge. That’s 7 billion bags turned into 500 million in 6 months. more importantly for Walmart perhaps is the ability to reinforce its brand by converting the money it save and collects into lower prices, a true statement of its brand promise.

Leadership by the world’s largest retailer against this effort would have another huge effect as well, that of creating relevancy for Walmart in a time of declining top of mind awareness as retail shifts from physical to digital. The combined brand, financial and talk value of such a change would be enormous and if positioned correctly, could be a strong loyalty tool for existing customer and give non-customers a reason to support reason to shop Walmart.

A recent study found aspirational consumers want to support purpose driven brands but are having trouble finding (and naming) ones that align with that value.

Communities across the country are already taking action and banning bags altogether including San Francisco, New York, San Diego and Washington D.C. and others. A Walmart initiative on shopper behavior change could drastically cut bag usage while still giving customers a choice of how to manage their items. It could even create a Good Exchange to help benefit environmental organizations like the through by donating some of the funds raised through bag sales creating shopper driven shared value. This would also help to strengthen the formidable reputation Walmart has built in sustainability and grow positive share of voice for its sustainability brand warmth.

All of this for a simple quarter. Of course it isn’t that simple but Walmart could make it so and through its example, likely change the entire industry.