• Costco is a wholesale warehouse retailer with more than 490 membership stores throughout the world, which carry a wide selection of bulk products ranging from food to books to household appliances.
• Costco employees enjoy high wages, the average is $15.97 an hour, and health benefits, including a health care coverage rate of 82 percent.
• Costco has been sued for gender discrimination, sexual harrassment, and providing customers with expired rebates.
• The big-box nature of Costco takes a toll on the environment and society by contributing to sprawl, and some of Costco's location choices have sparked fierce opposition for affecting places with rich cultural heritage and ecologically sensitivity.
• Go Green and explore alternative locally owned stores.
-- Profile Updated 03/28/2011
Costco is a wholesale warehouse retailer with more than 490 membership stores throughout the world. The Issaquah, WA-based company offers everything from bulk foods to computers. In 2006, Costco reported sales of $60.16 billion and 118,000 employees.
Stop Factory Farm Organics
The Organic Consumers Association is calling for consumers to protect the integrity of certified organic dairy products. According to the campaign, two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), a supplier to Wal-Mart and many health food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats and others, who together control 65% of the market, are purchasing the majority of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture.
These giant dairy feedlots regularly import calves from conventional farms, where animals have been fed slaughterhouse waste and genetically engineered grains, and injected or dosed with antibiotics. Sign the petition and send a message to the companies' CEOs and let them know you are boycotting their products until they comply with USDA organic standards.
Costco Canada Inc. - Ottawa, Canada
- COSTCO Wholesale Membership, Inc. - Roseville, CA
- Price Costco Canada Holdings Inc. - Ottawa, Canada
Issaquah, WA 98027 USA
Jim Sinegal, Costco’s Chief Executive, announced on February 3rd, 2008 that Costco is making a concerted effort in minimizing its carbon footprint. Costco has already installed skylights and solar panels in six of its giant warehouse stores in California and Hawaii and seven additional stores are supposed to get them later in the year. These solar arrays are the largest in the state of Hawaii and cost about $745,000 per store, although Costco should make the money back in only three to five years. Sinegal also explained that Costco recycles everything ranging from plastic stretch-wrap to cardboard boxes and light bulbs. In addition, the wholesaler has been working with Kirkland Signature to offer more organic options. Sinegal concluded that becoming green is “not something that’s just nice to do anymore. It’s imperative.”
-- Seattle Times, 02/03/2008
In October 2003, Costco began construction on a 148,665-square-foot wholesale store, tire center, gas station and parking lot on the Clark County Wetlands. Initially, almost 11 acres of the Costco’s prospective building site were categorized as wetlands and therefore entitled to federal protection. According to The Columbian, a Vancouver publication, a controversial Supreme Court ruling over the prairie potholes in the Upper Midwest Cost, which stated the Clean Water Act does not apply to “isolated wetlands,” or those wetlands not connected to navigable waters, led the Corps to conclude it lacks the jurisdiction to preclude development. Under the Clean Air Act, the Army Corps of Engineers has been given the right to approve permits to fill wetlands. Based upon the aforementioned supreme court ruling, the Corps granted Costco permission to begin construction on the Clark County Wetlands site and the company began building a discount store and parking lot on top of the Clark County wetlands, which hold and filter storm water and provide a transportation corridor for some 100 species of birds, mammals and other animals.
-- The Columbian (Vancouver, WA), 10/08/2003
Source URL: none available
Ethics and Governance
In January 2007 a California judge granted class-action status to a gender discrimination lawsuit brought forward by Costco employees alleging that qualified females were routinely passed over for promotion. More than 700 women claim to have been denied promotions based on their gender.
-- San Francisco Chronicle, 01/12/2007
Source URL: none available
In February 2005, a woman filed a lawsuit against Costco claiming a supervisor sexually harassed her and that she was the target of retaliation once she reported the alleged abuse. When she complained of the alleged harassment, she stated she was transferred to another part of the store and eventually her hours were cut.
-- Associated Press, 02/24/2005
Source URL: none available
In 2003, the citizens coalition of the Frente Cvico Pro Defensa del Casino de la Selva, in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico, Canadian Committee to Combat Crimes against Humanity (CCCCH) in Canada and Social Choice for Social Change: Campaign for a New TIAA-CREF in the United States and Mexico Solidarity Network, alleged that Costco contractors destroyed murals representative of Mexican culture, a 3000 year old Olmec site and millions of cubic meters of biotic space with centenary trees when they demolished a hotel to build a huge warehouse store and paved the wooded surroundings with a vast parking lot. The coalition demanded justice for the perceived destruction of the area's cultural, historic, and environmental heritage perpetrated by Costco and its partner Comercial Mexicana.The company's private security police were also indicted by a Mexican Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International for using excessive force against peaceful demonstrators who protested against the construction in 2001.
-- SocialFunds.com, 01/08/2004
Source URL: www.socialfunds.com/news/article.cgi/1310.html
In January 2004, Christian Brothers Investment Services urged Costco shareholders to demand that the company publicly disclose its land procurement policies at the annual shareholders meeting. Costco has previously lacked a stated policy for land procurement and use. Its practices in such locations as Cuernavaca, Mexico, Cypress, Ca. and other sites in the U.S. have led to the criticism of social, human rights and environmental groups. (see related items)
-- PR Newswire, 01/07/2004
Source URL: www.cbisonline.com/page.asp?id=102
Costco customers have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the wholesale club tricked customers into buying products with expired rebates. The complaint claims Costco promoted products with sealed rebate coupons for health and other products. Consumers learned the rebate was expired after purchasing the product and tearing off the rebate label on the package. An undisclosed number of Costco customers are seeking unspecified monetary damages.
-- News Tribune, 07/21/2000
Source URL: none available
- Amend [the] company's supplier …
At the 2006 shareholder meeting, shareholders called on Costco to do the following:
- Amend [the] company's supplier code and standard purchase contracts to reflect implementation of a code of conduct based on the ILO standards
- Establish an independent monitoring process that assesses adherence to these standards
- Report annually on adherence to the amended code through an independent and transparent process, the first such report to be completed by January 2007
-- Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility, 05/01/2006
Source URL: www.iccr.org
Costco, T.J. Maxx (part of TJX) and Kmart failed to respond to requests by Amnesty International (AI) and Global Witness for information on the companies' diamond sourcing policies. In accordance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme which seeks to end the trade of conflict diamonds, retailers made an industry-wide commitment to educating employees on company diamond purchasing regulations. However, upon administering an industry survey, AI and Global Witness found that only 42% of retail staff were aware of any company guidelines for sourcing diamonds.
-- Amnesty International, 10/18/2004
In March 2002, workers on Los Alamos Plantation in Equador (the supplier of Bonita bananas for many large North American grocery chains), attempted to unionize. The owner of Los Alamos, Mr. Noboa, the richest man in Equador, responded by firing 120 people. In May 2002, violence broke out on Los Álamos Plantation when workers protested against poor wages and working conditions by occupying part of the hacienda. According to workers’ accounts, shots were fired, two people were wounded, and they were forced off plantation grounds by guards. The next afternoon, when workers gathered at the gate, the guards allegedly wounded seven more workers and a policeman. After the confrontation at Los Álamos, the U.S./Labor Education in the Americas Project, began pressing Costco, a distributor of Bonita bananas, to urge Mr. Noboa to improve labor conditions on Los Alamos.
-- Banana Link, 07/13/2002
Health and Safety
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetic released a report in March 2009 that revealed 23 out of the 28 children’s bath products they tested contained formaldehyde, a chemical that increases skin sensitivity and irritates nasal and respiratory passages in addition to being considered a probable carcinogen by the EPA. 32 of 48 tested products contained 1,4-dioxane, which is also considered a probable human carcinogen by the EPA and a byproduct of the chemical processes used to make petroleum-based ingredients gentler to the skin. Nearly two-thirds of all tested products contained both of these harmful toxins. Brands tested in this study include Bath & Body Works (Limited Brands), Johnson & Johnson, CVS/Pharmacy, Unilever, L’Oreal, Wal-Mart, Kimberly-Clark, Target, Costco and Procter & Gamble. Organic Consumers Association has also recently released a report on brands that have sharply reduced levels of 1,4-dioxane since March 2008 that include 365 Everyday Value (Whole Foods), Earth Friendly Products, Ecco Bella, Giovanni, Jason, Johnson & Johnson, Kiss My Face, Life Tree, Method, Nature’s Gate, Planet Ultra, and Seventh Generation.
-- USA Today, 03/12/2009
Ethics and Governance
PETA purchased 65 shares of Costco in order to influence the company to only purchase chicken from suppliers that kill the animals humanely. PETA has bought shares in companies like Wal-Mart and Safeway with the same goal in mind.
-- PETA, 07/10/2006