From Oil to Gold, Top Companies Shunning 'Dirty' Resources

From Oil to Gold, Top Companies Shunning 'Dirty' Resources

Image courtesy of Whole Foods

Big name brands including Whole Foods, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Walmart, and Tiffany and Co., are turning their backs on so-called "dirty" resources gleaned at the expense of the environment.

Whole Foods and Bed, Bath and Beyond have begun working to phase out from their operations transportation fuel from the Canadian tar sands. Meanwhile, Cartier, Sears and more than 60 other retailers have committed to buying gold from environmentally responsible sources.

Environmental groups ForestEthics, Earthworks and OxFam America released on Wednesday the latest results of their respective campaigns aimed at strengthening responsible sourcing. Earthworks and Oxfam partnered in 2004 to raise environmental and human rights standards of the mining industry. And last July, ForestEthics launched its campaign to encourage more than a hundred Fortune 500 companies to avoid fuels from Canada's tar sands, where extraction is considered to be more environmentally-destructive than for conventional fuels.

According to ForestEthics, Whole Foods commited to stop buying tar sands transportation fuel, beginning with one of its distribution centers. The company is working with its fuel suppliers to source non-tar sands fuel, according to Spokeswoman Libba Letton, who told Wednesday the company is having a difficult time finding a supplier who can deliver non-tar sands fuel in Rocky Mountain region.

Whole Foods sees the move as part of a broad sustainability platform, which includes green building, renewable energy purchases and waste reduction. "Every small efforts helps," Letton said. "For us, it doesn't represent a major initiative but is folded into a larger strategy."

Bed, Bath and Beyond will seek fuel source information from transportation providers and will consider tar sands fuel use during the bidding process, ForestEthics said Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Earthworks and Oxfam published a report "Tarnished Gold?" detailing retailers' responsible sourcing efforts. It covers 39 jewelry retailers surveyed one year ago, but a total of more than 60 have since signed onto the Golden Rules, a set of responsible sourcing guidelines meant to ensure that retailers' precious metal suppliers respect internationally recognized human rights and labor standards, do not operate in armed conflict areas, do not force communities off their lands, operate in an environmentally friendly manner, and allow their practices to be independently verified.

According to their analysis, Birks & Mayors, Tiffany & Co., and Herff Jones were the highest scoring large jewelry retailers, with "B" grades. Smaller companies, whose smaller inventories make it easier to more quickly institute policy shifts, showed greater progress, with four firms -- Brilliant Earth, Cred Jewelry, Lena Marie Echelle Designs, and Real Jewels -- earning "A" grades.

[UPDATE: Bed, Bath and Beyond has reportedly backed off efforts to limit tar sands transportation fuels in its supply chain, the Globe and Mail reported Feb. 12, after facing a boycott of its own by angry consumers and businesses in Alberta, Canada.]