brands under fire

Walmart's $81 Million Fine for Toxic Dumping Undermines Sustainability Promises

Posted by Barry Silverstein on May 29, 2013 11:31 AM

Walmart's brand has taken a steady battering over the past year, and part of it is related to sustainability. 

Last March, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance issued a report called "Walmart's Greenwash" that said the leading retailer's sustainability campaign "has done more to improve the company's image than to help the environment." According to the report, Walmart's greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly and its energy efficiency and renewable projects are "too modest" for the size and scale of the company's operations.

Add to that Walmart's latest environmental slap in the face: On May 28, the company pleaded guilty to dumping hazardous waste in California and Missouri, agreeing to pay more than $81 million in fines. In the greater scheme of things, the money is the least significant portion of the problem for Walmart. With $27.87 billion of operating profit last year, The Atlantic estimates that $81 million is little more than a single day's worth of profit for the retailer.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Activists, Advertisers Get Attention as Facebook Reacts to Anti-Rape Campaign

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 28, 2013 06:50 PM

“Apparently it's funny to kick your girlfriend in the uterus if she won't make you a sandwich,” is one example of the content on Facebook being targeted by a joint campaign from Everyday Sexism, Women, Action & the Media (WAM!) and activist Soraya Chemaly to stop the promotion of "rape culture" on the social media site.

The campaign, which has garnered more than 57,000 tweets and over 4,900 emails, failed to get the response it wanted from Facebook, so instead, it has turned to pressuring brands whose ads appear alongside such content on the site. Supporters of the movement have been using the hashtag #FBrape to tweet at brands urging them to remove their ads from the site in protest. So far, those who have pulled ads from the site include Nationwide UK, eReader Utopia, Matt Miner Comics, House of Burlesque, Candypolis, Grow Your Own Theatre, Capturing Childhood, J Street, Nissan UK and WestHost.

“We thought about who it is they really care about,” Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM told the International Business Times. "They clearly don’t care about their users, so we thought, ‘Well, maybe they care about their advertisers.’ We’re just trying to hold their toes to the fire until they pay attention."Continue reading...

brands under fire

Uniqlo Rejects Bangladesh Safety Agreement as Worker Unrest Spreads

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 28, 2013 05:12 PM

Uniqlo, the fourth-largest retail brand in the world, has gone the way of Walmart and refused to sign the Bangladesh safety agreement, opting instead to monitor its factories on its own.

"We want to first focus on what we can do right now, on our own," Yukihiro Nitta, head of Fast Retailing's Corporate Social Responsibility group told the Wall Street Journal. He said the company also will hire a Japanese company to assess the soundness of its suppliers' factories in Bangladesh, noting that ultrasound and x-ray technology can be used to check for cracks in concrete and piping.

Most of the 30 companies who have signed, including Uniqlo’s rival H&M, are European. Meanwhile, American companies including Walmart, Gap, JCPenney, Sears and Target have all held out on the point that the agreement includes a legally-binding clause, one that they argue could hurt US companies more than their international counterparts. For Uniqlo, this isn’t the first time the company, owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing, has come under activist pressure. Earlier this year, the brand bowed to a cause to sign a detox pledge spearheaded by Greenpeace, in which the company agreed to stop releasing hazardous chemicals throughout its supply chain and products by 2020.Continue reading...

brands under fire

March Against Monsanto Attracts Hundreds of Thousands Worldwide

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 27, 2013 01:16 PM

When Tami Canal created a “March Against Monsanto” Facebook page back in late February, she would have been happy to get a couple of thousand people to come out and make some noise against the seed-manufacturing giant that has been under fire for creating genetically modified plants. 

Instead, hundreds of thousands of Camal’s compatriots came out to march in over 52 different countries to show their displeasure with Monsanto, according to the Associated Press. They dressed up as bananas and devils and carried signs with slogans such as “Real Food 4 Real People” and the punning “Give Bees a Chance.”

It was also a sign that Canal's movement had arrived with global support for Occupy Monsanto as a brand-specific off-shoot of the Occupy Wall Street brand of activism.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Foxconn Still Struggling as Apple Distances Itself

Posted by Ben Berkon on May 24, 2013 06:36 PM

Mega tech manufacturer Foxconn has been in the negative spotlight a lot over the past few months. Despite once being the main manufacturer for Apple products—as well as a significant player for Hewlettt-Packard, and to a lesser extent, Sony, Dell and Acer—Apple recently decided to take their iPhone 4S and iPad mini business to Taiwanese competitor, Pegatron. Apple has also promised to eventually bring a chunk of their manufacturing work back to the United States to help create new jobs.

Unfortunately, Foxconn was thrust back into the spotlight recently as reports of three employee suicides surfaced. While Foxconn is hardly the only Chinese or global company to be accused of archaic and dangerous labor conditions, the recent suicides mark a new low in the category, especially since the company had previously come under fire and had supposedly reformed many of its practices.Continue reading...

brands under fire

Retailers Reject $7 Billion Swipe Fee Settlement and File Suit Against Visa, MasterCard

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 24, 2013 02:42 PM

Millions of credit cards are swiped each day in America, meaning Visa and MasterCard are raking in big bucks from retailers daily under the current fee structure. Following a dispute over the swipe fees, Visa and MasterCard were prepping to pay out a $7.2 billion settlement to retailers, but now, the brands and the National Retail Federation have denied the settlement and instead have decided to sue the credit companies. 

Macy's, Target, Office Max, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Saks, and about a dozen other big retailers have banded together and sued Visa and MasterCard, Reuters reports. Walmart and 18 other retailers didn’t get in on the suit, but will “consider pursuing separate legal actions over damages.”Continue reading...

brands under fire

Another Failed Mea Culpa from A&F After Activists Show Up at HQ

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 23, 2013 03:04 PM

It’s been seven years since Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mike Jeffries told Salon.com that his company is only interested in outfitting the cool, hip, skinny, “all-American kid(s) with a great attitude and a lot of friends.” He’s been paying the price for his exclusionary comments, though, for the past few weeks since Business Insider republished the quotes in a story about how A&F didn’t carry any women’s XL or XXL sizes.

The A&F brand has been taking a beating since. YouGov’s BrandIndex charted 18- to 34-year-old’s thoughts on the brand versus fellow retailers H&M and American Eagle. The latter two went up slightly while A&F’s numbers plummeted. Jeffries, no doubt, is regretting his comments from way back when (or at least is annoyed that BI brought them to the world’s attention again). On May 15, Jeffries posted a note to the company’s Facebook page that went for the old “quote has been taken out of context” argument and claims that the company is “strongly committed to diversity and inclusion.”

That may be so, but Jeffries may have misstepped again Wednesday when a group of teen activists showed up at the doorstep of the Columbus, Ohio, headquarters of his company. They were taken in, People magazine reports, and had a meeting with company execs but Jeffries didn’t bother to stick his head into the proceedings even though this has been a PR disaster for his company.Continue reading...

brands under fire

US Brands Still Holding Out as Bangladesh Government Looks to Place Blame

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 23, 2013 01:54 PM

Almost one month to the day after the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1,127 people, American retailers and their international counterparts remain at odds over the plan to improve labor conditions, with legal liability still at the top of US concerns.   

Gap, one of the largest American retailers implicated in industry accidents in Bangladesh has said in recent weeks that it was close to signing the proposed agreement, if only clauses regarding arbitration were removed. “In the United States, there’s maybe a bigger legal risk than there is in Europe,” said Gap CEO Glenn Murphy, according to The New York Times. “If we were to sign onto something that had unlimited legal liability and risk, I think our shareholders should care about that.” Calling the language of the agreement "vague and unclear," Gap, along with Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Sears and other major US retailers have bilked at signing the accord, despite the fact that over 30 global brands had signed on by the proposed May 15 deadline.Continue reading...

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