The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: BJ’s Wholesale Club

Sustainability Series: BJ’s Wholesale Club


June 24, 2012

Headquartered in Westborough, Massachusetts, BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. is a leading operator of warehouse clubs in the eastern United States. The company operates 195 clubs and 107 gas stations in 15 eastern states. BJ's carries the most product variety of any wholesale club with more than 7,000 items, including supermarket?sized staples, USDA “Choice” meats, all? natural and certified organic products and stock?up items. We talked to Scott Williams, Manager of Product Development and Quality Assurance for BJ’s Wholesale Club, about the importance of creating practices that are both good for the environment and provide value without compromise.

How does your business define sustainability?

At BJ’s Wholesale Club, we are creating a constantly evolving program that recognizes the roles that our members, buyers, suppliers and vendor partners have on the environment. Our goal is to continue to provide quality offerings at an excellent value for years to come.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

One area in which we are focused on sustainability is seafood. We recognize that as a large volume buyer of seafood products, we are in a unique position to help protect our oceans and waterways and the seafood it provides us. We want to use the knowledge and technology of all of our partners to make sure that we choose to offer items that have the smallest impact on the long-term health of our water’s ecosystems. BJ’s has committed to a strategy that promotes the long-term sustainability of seafood supplies by improving fisheries and fish farms.

BJ’s has also partnered with Green Blue as part of the How 2 Recycle program. In this instance we are working with our vendors to ensure the new clearer recycling symbols are on the package, which will hopefully help our members find recycling easier and thus more common.

What are your short term and long term goals?

BJ’s short term goal is to look internally and at our suppliers to ensure we’re all doing what is right for the environment, and if not, our long term goal is to fix the problem and get ourselves, our suppliers and partners on the correct path.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

We expect to have the biggest impact in reduction of resources. Our model of distribution and sales inherently uses less packaging. In addition our scale with vendors allows us to source items in a responsible way (especially commodities) and have a larger impact.

How do you measure your progress?

BJ’s measures progress by how many grocery or packaged goods are listed under each of our programs. For instance, when identifying “All Natural” products, we use a system called “Choice-Editing” which means we set a standard, and items that meet those standards fall under that program. We’re very proud of the number of items that meet BJ’s “All Natural” criteria and guidelines that are often stricter than the industry standard.

A full list of All Natural items can be found on BJ’s Facebook page.

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We keep on top of the best practices in the industry. If there is an effort that everyone can get behind (i.e. National Sodium Reduction Initiative or How 2 Recycle) then we can all work to move vendors in the same direction. This helps everyone achieve their goals quicker.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Because it is the right thing to do for everyone involved. Using seafood as an example again, as a large merchant of seafood, BJ’s can help create practices that prevent fish stock collapses – helping both our environment and the fishermen and suppliers. This will also ensure that seafood is available for a long time to come and that our members can continue to enjoy delicious, fresh seafood. 

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

Consumers are becoming more aware of how their purchasing decisions impact the world. Our members want to know that when they shop at BJ’s, they are purchasing high quality items that come from a trusted, safe source and have a minimal environmental impact. Members want to know that BJ’s values the environment and resources and keeps sustainability top of mind. We’re working on doing just that every day.

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact us