Triple Pundit, March 12, 2012
A report by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) entitled “Walmart’s Greenwash” examines the retail giant’s environmental impact and finds that the results are falling far short of the promises.
According to senior researcher and author Stacy Mitchell, “Walmart’s sustainability campaign has done more to improve the company’s image than to help the environment.”
Of course, a giant retailer like Walmart needs to maintain the goodwill of its customers. So when a number of negative reports about the company’s environmental and social justice performance began to impact the company’s image, the company needed to respond. And since, according to then-CEO Lee Scott, improving working conditions for their employees would be too expensive, they decided to go green instead.
In 2005, the company announced its sustainability program, which has consisted of a series of announcements regarding the reduction of energy use, reducing waste and selling healthier foods. This is consistent with the company’s strategy to grow its market share in the Northeast, where environmental awareness is high.
Yet, according to the ILSR report, the program has been heavy on promises with little in the way of accountability, and more importantly, little in the way of improvement of the company’s footprint.
If there is a lesson to be learned here, it is surely to let the buyer beware. Promises are cheap, especially when accountability is lacking. But as Mitchell suggests, do we simply accept Walmart’s takeover as a fait accomplit and frame the conversation in those terms, being grateful for whatever improvements they make, given their scale and potential impact, or do we ask, is allowing Walmart to take over an ever larger share of our economy, truly good for the planet? True, the size and reach of the company could potentially become a major force for good, at least in theory, which is what we were hoping to see. But, perhaps it is time to ask if the need to not only maintain that size, but to continue growing it, precludes any credible path to sustainability?
Read the full story here. By RP Siegel, PE, President of Rain Mountain LLC.