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Sustainable Wal-Mart?
Alex Steffen, 27 Jul 06

CNN chimes in on Wal-Mart's Sustainability Ambitions, a subject you'll be hearing more about here at Worldchanging over the next couple days.

Just listen to Scott. "To me," he says, "there can't be anything good about putting all these chemicals in the air. There can't be anything good about the smog you see in cities. There can't be anything good about putting chemicals in these rivers in Third World countries so that somebody can buy an item for less money in a developed country. Those things are just inherently wrong, whether you are an environmentalist or not."

In a speech broadcast to all of Wal-Mart's facilities last November, Scott set several ambitious goals: Increase the efficiency of its vehicle fleet by 25% over the next three years, and double efficiency in ten years. Eliminate 30% of the energy used in stores. Reduce solid waste from U.S. stores by 25% in three years.

Wal-Mart says it will invest $500 million in sustainability projects, and the company has done a lot more than draw up targets. It has quickly become, for instance, the biggest seller of organic milk and the biggest buyer of organic cotton in the world. It is working with suppliers to figure out ways to cut down on packaging and energy costs. It has opened two "green" supercenters.

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Hi Alex, I think the best principle to remember when it comes to Wal-Mart is: Purity does not scale.

It's wonderful that Wal-Mart is pledging to do these things, although followup may prove a bit trickier. But any sincere "green" strategy (rather than just cost-cutting that may happen to have "green" PR value) involves relocalization, and Wal-Mart's whole business is built on the antithesis, globalization. Somewhere crunch time enters in and the process blows up. You can't be "Always Greener, Always" and still be "Always Cheaper."

See my posts on "Outing Wal-Mart" for more, including links to Jeff/Sustainablog and Treehugger on this subject, thanks...

Posted by: Paul Andrews on 31 Jul 06

I couldn't be more skeptical of their motivations myself, but I think the previous implication that greener is always more expensive is not true. Also remember that WalMart is capable of applying pressure on manufacturers that no other retailer in the world can, making it easier for everyone to source greener products.

As much as I despise WalMart for everything they have represented, and as much as it will take much more a few years of playing nice for me to forgive and forget, I must say that engaging RMI and some of the other actions appears earnest and the Earth could sure use any help at all, even from a questionable source such as this.

Posted by: Don Bustin on 2 Aug 06



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