The four panelists: Michael Pollan, Jack Sinclair, Jib Ellison and Nikki Henderson
“We’re on the other edge of the sword here,” said Daisy Moreno, a second-year political science student at University of California, Berkeley.
Enrolled in this year’s Edible Education course, Moreno stood in the doorway of Cal's Wheeler auditorium as students filled the 760-person hall, eventually reclining against the back wall when all of the seats had been taken.
After four weeks of hearing from activists and educators about the impacts of marketing within the food sector, Moreno said she’s learned about the importance of knowing what a company’s bottom line looks like and how aggressively they are willing to follow it. And today, she said she hoped that Jack Sinclair, executive vice president of the food division for Walmart U.S., would shed some light on how ethics play into choice - at the supermarket.
As she expected, however, Sinclair and Ellison did not delve into ethics and instead lightly touched on their new expansion plans.
For Sinclair the focus was on nutrition and affordability. The majority of Walmart customers in the U.S., most of whom earn less than $30,000 per year, should have access to cheap, quality food he said. And, organic food should be more affordable. Sinclair did not address the 1,500 new stores Walmart plans to open in food deserts. Though he did address various questions about farm workers and about pay rates for Walmart workers, his answers tended toward the general values behind supporting better living.
Jib Ellison, CEO of Blu Skye Strategy Consulting, which aims to help companies create competitive advantage from sustainability, addressed the effects of externalizing costs and the reality of how the lowest priced product will dominate commodity markets. Ultimately he stressed, sustainable innovation will happen when it can return a profit.
Nov. 22 - TBD, Van Jones