Chapter 6
Industrial Marketplace Product Decision Making

Mark Eisen

The Home Depot

As the world's largest building materials retailer, The Home Depot embarked more than 6 years ago on a journey to try to do the right thing and get ahead of the curve when it came to how it believed the environment would affect its business and customers in the future. The informal environmental management system the company created focuses on merchandise as the fulcrum through which the company can most forcefully bring about positive environmental change. The underpinnings of this strategy are to offer the consumer alternative product choices, leading the consumer where possible rather than just meeting a marketplace demand, and to provide the credible information to help inform consumers' about their environmental choices. The results of applying these strategies reveal that the retailer's decision-making processes very closely mirror the consumer's, and that the retailer's role in the supply chain can be a powerful stimulant to enhancing and implementing sustainable production practices.

Anecdotal evidence from our stores shows how the best available tools of environmental decision making—in particular, ecolabeling, product certification, and the life-cycle inventory stage of life-cycle analysis—can be used by retailers and consumers. Most important, we have found that our efforts to link the consumer (including our buyers) to the supply chain are an important catalyst to achieve a sustainable future. Sustainable production is simply not possible without sustainable consumption. As an advanced consumer economy, the United States has a tremendous obligation and opportunity to educate and empower consumers through marketplace and government initiatives to create a ''sustainable consumer.'' The environmental information for forest products and competing commodities—in particular, steel—is still emerging, but it seems clear that the lessons learned from other industries point to a possible tremendous upheaval in



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Chapter 6 Industrial Marketplace Product Decision Making Mark Eisen The Home Depot As the world's largest building materials retailer, The Home Depot embarked more than 6 years ago on a journey to try to do the right thing and get ahead of the curve when it came to how it believed the environment would affect its business and customers in the future. The informal environmental management system the company created focuses on merchandise as the fulcrum through which the company can most forcefully bring about positive environmental change. The underpinnings of this strategy are to offer the consumer alternative product choices, leading the consumer where possible rather than just meeting a marketplace demand, and to provide the credible information to help inform consumers' about their environmental choices. The results of applying these strategies reveal that the retailer's decision-making processes very closely mirror the consumer's, and that the retailer's role in the supply chain can be a powerful stimulant to enhancing and implementing sustainable production practices. Anecdotal evidence from our stores shows how the best available tools of environmental decision making—in particular, ecolabeling, product certification, and the life-cycle inventory stage of life-cycle analysis—can be used by retailers and consumers. Most important, we have found that our efforts to link the consumer (including our buyers) to the supply chain are an important catalyst to achieve a sustainable future. Sustainable production is simply not possible without sustainable consumption. As an advanced consumer economy, the United States has a tremendous obligation and opportunity to educate and empower consumers through marketplace and government initiatives to create a ''sustainable consumer.'' The environmental information for forest products and competing commodities—in particular, steel—is still emerging, but it seems clear that the lessons learned from other industries point to a possible tremendous upheaval in

OCR for page 52
building-product markets. This will be particularly true if consumers are conditioned to connect the increasingly negative effects of climate change to their own local environmental health, and then in turn connect their buying choices of wood to their own eventual potential endangerment or demise.