Consumers: Chief Merchandising Officer for a Large Electronics Retailer
You are an executive for a retail chain that is focused on avoiding consumer boycotts and making consumers feel good about their purchases.
Your Background and Biography
You grew up in northern Minnesota and, not wanting to move far from your family, you decided to enroll at the local campus of the state university, where you studied marketing. You started your career with an internship at the regional office of a major electronics retailer. Now almost 20 years later you are the chief merchandising officer.
In this position you are in charge of merchandising and product management, reporting directly to the CEO. You decide what categories of products consumers can buy in more than a thousand stores in the United States and Canada. You oversee a staff that picks individual products to sell. You are also responsible for deciding what products the company advertises and how it engages with customers.
Part of your job is staying ahead of consumer trends. Your company sells lots of digital TV screens, headphones, speakers, smartphones, and many other products that use rare earth elements in their design. You are aware that young consumers express a higher interest in buying products that are produced in ethical and sustainable ways. You would like to have a variety of sustainability-certified electronics to advertise to ethically minded consumers. And looking at the really big picture, you believe it might help your business if manufacturers had other sources of rare earth elements outside of China, since tensions over global trade and tariffs have the potential to raise the prices you have to charge consumers in order to make a profit.
In this negotiation you want a Sustainability Seal that is easy to explain to consumers and that consumers will believe is making the world a better place. You hope it will promote a diversity of sources of rare earths. You are also committed to having your stores be sites where consumers can drop off their old phones for recycling because you would like to champion recycling programs for smartphones.
Your goal at this hearing is to convince the Stewardship Council to include the Consumers Group’s recommendations in its final Sustainability Seal guiding values. To make this argument effectively, you must do the following:
- Complete the assigned readings listed at the bottom of this page.
- Work closely with the other members of your group to develop clear answers to the Stewardship Council’s questions.
- Use as much specific information as possible to develop strong arguments for your position that the price of sustainably certified rare earth metals needs to cover the true cost of production and environmental protection, and investment in innovative production methods should be promoted to reduce social and environmental harms.
- Read as much as you can about your position and the positions of the other groups.
- Complete written reflections on your character, interest group, and readings as assigned.
Your Victory Objectives
- You will receive 10 points if the Stewards select your group’s proposal as the final Sustainability Seal guiding values.
- The Stewards will rank the interest groups by how well their goals are represented in the final Sustainability Seal guiding values. You will receive between 1 and 4 points based on how the Producers Group is ranked and how well the Sustainability Seal guiding values reflect your goals.
- Consumers Case Study: “Can Consumer Choices Make Rare Earth Production More Sustainable?”
- Atkin, Emily. “Trump Is the Wrong Target for Climate Activists.” New Republic, December 15, 2017.
- Center for Retail Compliance and Retail Industry Leaders Association. “RILA Issue Brief: The Value of Sustainability in Retail Merchandising.” retailcrc.org.
- Spicer, Andrew, and David Graham Hyatt. “Walmart Tried to Make Sustainability Affordable: Here’s What Happened.” Conversation, August 13, 2018.
- Whelan, Tensie, and Randi Kronthal-Sacco. “Actually, Consumers Do Buy Sustainable Products.” Harvard Business Review, June 19, 2019.