The Story of Stuff, February 29, 2012
Over the past several years, Walmart — the largest retailer in the United States by a factor of, well, a lot — has paraded out a series of sustainability initiatives, from energy efficient lighting in its stores to, more recently, a much-touted effort to bring fresh food to urban areas.
More than a few environmentalists have been won over, citing the power of the behemoth retailer to move suppliers, distributors and others in its supply chain toward sustainability. What could be bad, they argue, about Walmart using its purchasing power to open new markets for organic products or to close them for chemicals like the flame retardant PDBE?
But as writer Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance pointed out in a thoughtful and well-researched series of posts at Grist over the past year, Walmart’s motives are not entirely, or even perhaps even mainly, green-hearted:
“With [the environmental groups’] endorsements and the flood of positive press that seems to follow each of Walmart’s green announcements, the company has managed to turn around flagging poll numbers, shift its labor practices out of the limelight, and, most crucially, crank up its expansion machine.”