Walmart is entering the burgeoning “green cleaning” products market with a new line of non-toxic home cleaners that it says combines affordability, environmental friendliness and effectiveness. Using its generic brand name, the retailer announced last week that the Great Value Naturals line of four different cleaning products would be available at 2,000 stores across the country before a subsequent online launch. But with a patented technology in the mix, the “natural” ingredients remain somewhat of a mystery.
The new line was produced in partnership with a Florida-based company called Agaia using their patented Evolve® cleaning technology. The partnership marks the first foray into consumer markets for Agaia, which specializes in commercial cleaning applications ranging from hotels to bunkers. Their commercial and consumer products are based on their Evolve compound, which received a patent in June of this year.
Green cleaning products have caught on at the corporate level over the last few years. Big brands like Clorox and Scotch-Brite have introduced a range of new products with “green” marketing and non-toxic ingredients. Such product lines are seen as the answer to growing eco-friendly sentiment among consumers and to the popularity of niche manufacturers like Mrs. Meyers and Method. Indeed, Walmart Vice-President Alberto Dominguez noted to the press that, “Many consumers have the perception that all-natural cleaners are more expensive and don’t work as well as traditional cleaning products.” The Green Values Natural line is meant to correct this perception.
The green cleaning move falls in line with Walmart’s three-pronged sustainability mission, part of which has the corporation aiming to sell “products that sustain people and the environment.” As the world’s largest retailer, the mega-corporation obviously has a tangible ability to use its massive economy-of-scale buying power to disarm one of the biggest criticisms of the consumer sustainability movement: that environmentally-friendly products are available only to the wealthy or those in certain environmentally conscious locales. Documented evidence of environmental harm from household cleaners is spotty (most harmful chemicals are filtered out in water treatment plants), but products with volatile organic compounds like ammonia and nitrogen have been shown to affect indoor air quality and even contribute to outdoor smog levels. No matter the scale of the net effect, it is hard to argue that wider market adoption of non-toxic home cleaners — whether through Walmart or other channels — is not a positive step for consumers and the environment. For green cleaning competitors, it might be a different story.