Andrea Rimer is the issue editor for the Spring 2012 issue of Natural Resources & Environment.
When most people think about companies that are significantly impacted by environmental laws and regulations, they don’t immediately think of the retail sector. However, retailers have increasingly become the subject of regulation, agency investigation, and enforcement based on both the products they sell and the manner in which they conduct their businesses. Given the increasing number and variety of products and services offered by retailers, a growing percentage of the typical retailer’s inventory has the potential to be subject to environmental regulation at one or more points during the retail cycle. For example, this issue features two articles focused on the impact of state and federal hazardous waste laws on waste materials generated in retail and/or pharmacy operations—which in both cases may be the result of common situations such as customer returns, damages, or the expiration or recall of products. As discussed in those articles, retailers across the country have been the subject of significant enforcement action based on regulations that were not written with the unique challenges of the retail sector in mind. Retailers have, therefore, faced challenges in developing sustainable compliance programs that fit within the retail environment, and they are increasingly looking to the federal government for regulatory solutions.