Sam’s Club, a division of Walmart, recently announced the launch of Neu Direction, a line of Fair-Trade Certified wines from Argentina. Fair Trade Certification™ is administered by TransFair USA and “guarantees consumers that strict economic, social, and environmental criteria were met in the production and trade of an agricultural product.” This is one of the first certifications given to a wine cooperative, and the Neu Direction line will sell for about $10 in more than 450 Sam’s Club locations throughout the US.
This isn’t the first example of Walmart featuring Fair Trade Certified™ products, but after the corporation came under substantial scrutiny for lobbying against carbon offset standards, this new launch seems in part like a strategic move to improve its image in time for a modestly-forecasted holiday spending season.
(Photo Source: walmartstores.com)
Champion of the… Little Guy?
Eduardo Bertona, president of Vi√±a de la Solidaridad, one of the principle producers of Neu Direction, said: “I have been a small producer my whole life, but each year is more and more difficult to maintain the land and the quality of my grapes. To be a part of this project fills us with hope.” (Note: link directs to website in Spanish)
Neu Direction is produced by Vi√±a de la Solidaridad in conjunction with the Furlotti Winery based out of Lujan de Cuyo, one of the most prestigious winemaking districts in Argentina. Vi√±a de la Solidaridad is a non-profit organization that received Fair Trade Certification™ earlier this year, and is comprised of cooperative of 20 small landowners. The Furlotti Winery is a family run operation that has had a presence in the region for over 100 years.
The Soluna label, which is a wine produced by grapes from Vi√±a de la Solidaridad, was awarded the Fairtrade Wine of the Year last month at the 2008 Fairtrade Wine Competition in the UK.
“The launch of Sam’s Club Neu Direction Fair Trade Certified wine shows tremendous leadership,” said Paul Rice, president and CEO of TransFair USA. “The company’s commitment to Fair Trade Certified wine will have a far-reaching positive impact on grape growers and vineyard workers and the communities in which they live and work throughout Argentina – it will send kids to school, bring clean water to communities, and enable struggling growers and workers to put food on the table.”
The Bottom Line
For every two steps it takes forward, Walmart regardless always finds a way to take one, highly visible step back. Therefore, as the corporation’s ambivalent stance towards sustainability continues, this most recent announcement re-sparks an interesting debate. Where upon the spectrum of eco-friendliness does Walmart actually fall?