New Sears CEO: 'America Is Overregulated'

New Sears CEO Edward Lampert told Horace Cooper of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. based free market think tank, on Wednesday at the annual meeting of Sears shareholders that he believes the country is "over-regulated."

Cooper initially said to Lampert, "The Sears website gives us reason for concern that Sears is in favor of what essentially would be a private, self-imposed regulatory regime among major retailers, despite its unpopularity with the public."

"The Sears website says, 'We accomplish [these sustainability goals] with the help of our vendors (who provide products that fit this criteria), merchants (who choose products that fit this criteria), and partners (who help determine which products fit this criteria),'" Cooper elaborated. "This sounds like exactly what we are concerned about."

Cooper then asked Lampert:

Where does management stand on the question of its trade association imposing "sustainability" standards on its members, including Sears? Does management support the idea of RILA imposing "sustainability" standards on its members, or is it opposing mandatory sustainability standards and standing up for the right of each retailer to make its own decisions regarding the best way for each individual retailer to lawfully satisfy the needs of its customers?

Sears is a member of the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), one of the country's largest trade organizations. RILA's latest contribution to green advocacy is a massive effort to impose "sustainability" standards on member companies. 

To adhere to these new environmental rules, RILA calls on its member companies to undertake expensive capital expenditures, restrict the use of the property they own, and lobby local governments for more restrictive building codes that would apply to all members of the community, not just RILA members.

Lampert, Sears' largest stockholder who became CEO of Sears just recently after previously serving as chairman of Sears Holdings Corporation, responded, "Personally, I don't like coercive solutions. I think America is over-regulated." 

According to the National Center's press release, Lampert appeared "unaware of Sears' role in RILA," saying at one point, "I have no idea what RILA is."

Sears held a position on the RILA board of directors as recently as January. It was filled by then-CEO Lou D'Ambrosio, who left the company at the start of May.

"I am encouraged to see that Mr. Lampert seems to appreciate the true role of business in a capitalist society: to lawfully deliver the best products at the lowest price," said Cooper. This, not high-sounding words like 'sustainability,' is the route to prosperity." 

"As of now, RILA's sustainability standards are voluntary. However, it appears they are poised to make these costly standards mandatory for all its corporate members," Cooper claimed. "If mandated, these sustainability standards could create a new monopoly whereby large retailers--using their buying leverage--raise costs to suppliers and consumers to fuel this ideological agenda."

"Companies like Sears are a critical part of the American workforce," Cooper added. "They announced today that they're going to be selling 65 million different items. This has major implications for the American supply chain." 

"Therefore, it's crucial that instead of wasting resources on unpopular and unproductive sustainability measures, Sears ought to be taking the lead on encouraging entrepreneurship and creativity with small businesses," Cooper concluded.

Sustainability standards are third party assessed benchmarks relating to environmental, social, ethical, and food safety issues, adopted by companies to show the performance of their businesses or products. These standards are usually embraced by companies voluntarily. 

RILA, a trade association for the world’s largest retail companies, has endorsed such standards. Their last report on the issue focused on: energy and greenhouse gas emissions; waste and recycling; products and supply chains; environmental compliance; and communicating, reporting, and engaging. Sears Holdings Corporation, considered one of RILA's top 100 retailers, attended the Retail Sustainability Conference in 2012.


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