Wal-Mart establishes new rules for China
SHENZHEN, China Wal-Mart laid down the law for suppliers it does business with in China today at a first-of-its-kind meeting focused on sustainability that involved more than 1,000 suppliers.
The company announced it would implement a new supplier agreement that requires factories to certify compliance with laws and regulations that will be phased in beginning with suppliers in China in January 2009 and then expanded to suppliers globally by 2011. The company also said by 2009 it will require all direct import suppliers, suppliers of private label and non-branded product to provide the name and location of every factory they use. In addition, Wal-Mart will require the suppliers it buys from directly to source 95 percent of their production from factories that receive the highest ratings on environment and social practices by 2012.
From an energy reduction and resource utilization standpoint, Wal-Mart is applying some of the objectives already established in the United States. to its Chinese retail operations. For example, the company plans to design and open a new store prototype that uses 40 percent less energy and reduce energy use at existing stores by 30 percent by 2010. The company also plans to invest in hardware and systems and develop best practices that will enable it to reduce water used by half during the next two years.
The company’s goal is to become the most environmentally responsible retailer in China, a country where it has operated stores for nearly 15 years and now has more than 200 stores. Wal-Mart and its suppliers collectively are the largest exporters of goods manufactured in China which means the company is uniquely positioned to act as a change agent in a country where lax environmental controls, limited regulations and low wages have long been regarded as key reasons why China rose to become a global manufacturing powerhouse.
“I firmly believe that a company that cheats on overtime and on the age of its labor, that dumps its scraps and chemical in our rivers, that does not pay its taxes or honor its contracts, will ultimately cheat on the quality of its products,” Wal-Mart president and chief executive officer Lee Scott said. “And cheating on the quality of products is the same as cheating on customers. We will not tolerate that at Wal-Mart.”
In prepared remarks, Scott went on to add that Wal-Mart expects suppliers to meet strict social and environmental stand, be open to rigorous audits and to publicly disclosed all appropriate information.
“If a factory does not meet these requirements, they will be expected to put forth a plan to fix any problems. If they still do not improve, they will be banned from making products for Wal-Mart,” Scott said.
Fiber-packed foods on rise
It seems that more Americans are getting the message; fiber’s good for them and they just don’t get enough of it in their diets.
Sales of the top three fiber supplements—Metamucil, Benefiber and Citrucel—totaled $106.9 million across food, drug and mass (minus Wal-Mart) outlets for the 52 weeks ended Sept. 7, representing growth of 5.2 percent, according to Information Resources Inc.
And it’s not just the laxative benefits that are driving sales of fiber supplements; there have been quite a few promotional messages around the health benefits of fiber, beyond its use as a natural laxative. The American Heart Association, for example, cited the cholesterol-lowering benefits of fiber.
Kellogg in the past year has parlayed its success in promoting heart-healthy breakfast foods into a line of good-for-you meal-replacement bars. Most of those bars are positioned in the meal-replacement section of pharmacy operators, but at Wal-Mart, some of those fiber-fortified bars are being sold in the digestives aisle alongside Meta-mucil, Benefiber and Citrucel.
And GlaxoSmithKline recently sponsored a sampling event at select Wal-Marts in which the company’s Citrucel fiber supplements were offered to customers walking past Wal-Mart’s health-and-wellness area along with some literature on fiber health. GlaxoSmithKline was promoting its new fiber soft chew, a new delivery system for fiber supplements, available in chocolate and caramel flavors, according to the company. GlaxoSmithKline suggested consumers take four fiber chews per sitting.
Novartis Consumer Health also recently introduced a new delivery system to the fiber category—a stick-pack format, making it more convenient for on-the-go consumers to take up to 3 grams of fiber with their bottled water. The new fiber stick pack, part of the Benefiber family of products, is flavored cherry-pomegranate.
Steal this column
I routinely take shots at politicos and policy wonks who I believe just don’t get it as it relates to the issues that matter to community pharmacy. So, it was refreshing to hear some of our country’s leaders talk about what e-prescribing could do to transform health care from the highly fragmented, robust and rapidly growing sector of the nation’s economy, as Leavitt noted during his opening comments, to a system where key stakeholders actually communicate.
Detractors have pointed to the privacy issue. That’s kind of silly, as Leavitt, and Carcieri before him, pointed out—granted, I am paraphrasing a bit here because that’s what it sounded like to me. The privacy issues around e-health are, in a word—one Carcieri actually used—solvable.
How can he be so sure? Every day billions of people use ATM cards in machines all over the world that are not part of the banks that hold their money, with a reasonable expectation that no one else will see their banking records.
While the overarching purpose of the event was no doubt to promote physician adoption of e-prescribing software, sometime during the course of the event it occurred to me that the real opportunity to drive e-prescribing is to get the consumer on board.
The reality, as Paul Cotton, a senior lobbyist for AARP, explained, is that “when consumers start to learn about it, they want it.” According to a recent survey of AARP members, 9-out-of-10 older Americans want e-prescribing to enable their doctors to:
But it’s more than just telling consumers the positive story about what e-prescribing means for them; I believe Americans need to understand the negative implications of not moving forward with widespread physician adoption as soon as possible and what it means as an important first step to the creation of a national healthcare information technology infrastructure—and what it means for America to continue to limp along without one.
Because as it stands right now, their personal health records and medical histories are captured in countless manila folders in the filing cabinets of every physician that has ever treated them. And guess what? They can’t talk to each other, and, as a result, each one is an incomplete record. Carcieri believes he has 30 or more manila folders of his own stored in doctors’ offices across Rhode Island.
That means if you got hit by a bus tomorrow, it is likely the ER would know nothing about you by the time you got there. “Meanwhile, FedEx can tell you where a package will be anywhere in the world three hours from now,” Carcieri said.
Tell that story to as many consumers as you can and see what happens with e-prescribing over the next few years. You can steal this column if you need to.