Buzzwords: Sustainable

An ability to exist in perpetuity or maintain productivity indefinitely.

Back Article Jul 15, 2016 By MaryJayne Zemer

Sus·tain·able (suh-stey-nuh-buh-l), adj.

The word sustainable originates from the Latin word sustinere, which means to endure, support or uphold. Sustainable development, for example, describes development that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainable fishing relies on strategically fishing and harvesting to maintain the existing population of the species indefinitely.  

While we primarily talk about sustainability in terms of environmental impact, the principles of sustainability apply just as much to our social and economic ecology.


Walmart generates an average profit of $1.8 million per hour and is the third-largest employer in the world — after the U.S. Department of Defense and the People’s Liberation Army of China. Walmart’s sustainability plan focuses on environmental impact, with some of its primary goals targeting 100 percent renewable energy use, and zero waste through landfill diversion and responsible packaging.

According to Glassdoor, the average hourly wage of a Walmart cashier is $9 per hour; for comparison, in 2015 the average hourly rate of cashiers nationwide was $11.22. Earlier this year, Walmart announced changes to its compensation strategy that would result in the company’s average full-time hourly wage increasing to $13.38 and the average part-time hourly wage increasing to $10.58.

But in 2013, Walmart employees received more than $6 billion in public assistance services, which means our nation’s second-largest employer wasn’t paying wages sufficient to sustain its employees or our economic system. According to a 2014 study by the Pew Research Center, 56 percent of Americans say their family income is falling behind the cost of living, and millennials are the first generation who will earn less money and have a lower standard of living than their parents. When organizations like Walmart post record profits but pay unsustainable wages, they hinder the sustainability of our economic system.


Sustainable organizations measure and moderate their impact on our social, environmental and economic ecology.

California grocer Nugget Markets is a top contender on local and national “best places to work” lists.  According to Glassdoor, the average rate for general clerks is $10.87 per hour, and in 2012 the average annual salary for an hourly checker was $40,333. In addition, Nugget offers 100 percent health-care coverage to employees who work more than 22 hours per week. Walmart offers health care benefits to employees who work over 30 hours per week and covers an average of 60 percent of total health care costs for associates covered under their medical plansthe minimum required under the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to a comprehensive sustainability plan that includes reducing water use by 75 percent, conserving energy with LED lighting and partnering with California Safe Soil to turn food waste into liquid fertilizers, Nugget also sources local ingredients whenever possible for their in-house products — from their smoothies to their deli sandwiches. While Walmart has a long track record of putting local retailers out of business, Nugget actively supports small businesses.

“Sustainability is a mindset,” says Nugget Sustainability Coordinator Jeremy Patin. “Supporting sustainability at work leads employees to be more sustainable at home, it’s impacting families and communities — not just our stores.”

Which buzzwords are making you mad? Let us know in the comments!