Letter from Leading Environmentalists Calling for Change at Walmart

Date: 13 Nov 2013 | posted in: Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

We are writing today as leaders of some of the nation’s leading environmental organizations. We are coming together to demand real changes from Walmart – whose greenhouse gas emissions continue to exceed those of many countries. Despite its recent PR events on renewable energy, the truth is that Walmart lags far behind many other retailers in making the shift to wind and solar. Last year, the company’s use of renewable power actually declined. More troubling still, Walmart has made clear that it plans to increase the amount of climate change pollution it pumps into the atmosphere over the coming decade.

We are calling for fundamental changes to Walmart’s business model, which continues to elevate profits above all else and leave devastation in its wake. We extend this call to all those with a position of leadership or influence within Walmart, including the Walton family, who own half of Walmart, and the company’s board of directors.

In calling on Walmart to change its ways, we recognize and honor the leadership of Walmart workers throughout the company and its supply chain in their courageous efforts to transform the world’s largest retailer. Unfortunately, the company’s business model is built around the idea of hiding the true costs of doing business. Walmart is profitable because it externalizes its costs onto people, including its own workers, and the environment. We affirm that true sustainability entails a commitment to a viable future for both the environment and people.

When then-CEO Lee Scott first unveiled Walmart’s sustainability campaign in a 2005 speech, he described global warming as one of the central issues driving the company’s actions. “The science is in and it is overwhelming,” he said. “We believe every company has a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can.”
Eight years have passed and Walmart has failed to fulfill its promise. It’s time for Walmart to do more than just flashy environmental PR. Among the issues Walmart urgently needs to address:

Growing Greenhouse Gas Emissions —

Despite the company’s PR efforts to distract from this fact, Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly. Between 2005 and 2012, Walmart self reported that its carbon dioxide emissions grew from 18.9 to 21.2 million metric tons annually. If Walmart were included in the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, a list that is limited to heavy industrial firms, such as oil companies and metal smelters, the retailer would take the 33rd spot, just a hair behind Chevron.

The company has indicated that it expects its CO2 emissions to continue to increase over the next decade. Moreover, Walmart’s reported emissions do not include international shipping, land development, or manufacturing of the products they sell. Plus, Walmart continues to support extreme dirty energy, including tar sands oil, dirty coal, and fracking. This means Walmart’s climate change pollution is even higher than the massive amount they current report.

We call on Walmart to implement a publicly verifiable, accurate tracking of all of their climate change emissions, commit to an overall 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, and end reliance on environmentally destructive energy sources and industries, including dirty coal, fracking and the tar sands. This reduction in emissions could be achieved by investing in a faster shift to renewable power and energy efficiency, phasing out construction of auto-oriented store formats built on greenfields, and shifting to more local and regional sourcing of goods. In addition, we call on Walmart to hold its suppliers and business partners to these same standards or sever its relationships with them.

Campaign Cash for Anti-Environmental Politicians —

Walmart and the Walton family finance politicians who fight action to address the climate crisis, including funding the campaigns of some of the most powerful climate change deniers in Congress. Between 2005 and 2012, Walmart and the Waltons gave $2.1 million, more than half of their total Congressional campaign donations, to members of Congress with lifetime scores of 30 or less on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard. During the 2011-2012 election cycle, 70% of contributions from Walmart and the Walton family went to lawmakers who voted in favor of the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline. Walmart and the Waltons also heavily supported lawmakers who voted to block the EPA’s ability to regulate CO2 and those who fought to keep subsidies for Big Oil, with more than 60% of donations going to lawmakers on the wrong side of these issues. Walmart and the Waltons also continue to fund organizations that are leading major campaigns to block climate legislation, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (Walmart) and ALEC (Walton family).

We call on Walmart to stop funding anti-environmental politicians, including those leading attacks against climate solutions built on scientific consensus.

Walmart is the largest corporation in the world. While consumers see low prices, workers and the environment pay the true cost. Walmart has led the way in promoting this model of extreme cost cutting and growth at any cost across the retail sector. Now, it is time for Walmart to lead the industry in making real improvements.

We will be working with our allies in the environmental community and beyond to hold Walmart accountable. We hope to see a day when Walmart becomes a real leader for improvements for workers, the environment and our communities.


Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Energy Action Coalition

Friends of the Earth

Fuse Washington

Institute for Local Self-Reliance

Institute for Policy Studies

Labor Network for Sustainability

Rainforest Action Network

Sierra Club