Walmart Struggles to Overcome Environmental Criticism

Date: 20 Apr 2012 | posted in: Media Coverage, Retail | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

U.S. News & World Report, April 20, 2012

Walmart works hard to show off its green side, but environmental activists have been slamming the corporation for a litany of sins against Mother Nature—emitting millions of tons of CO2, encouraging waste by selling low-quality goods, and building warehouse-sized stores…. This week, the largest corporation in America itemized its environmental successes in its Global Responsibility Report.

Walmart recognizes that it is under the microscope. “We’ve set bold goals for ourselves, and government leaders, NGOs, and our customers are watching our progress,” company chairman Rob Walton said at the company’s Sustainability Milestone Meeting this week.

There are other green issues that environmental groups raise. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), one such group, has blasted the placement of stores on the outskirts of cities, requiring consumers to drive further to reach them. The retailer’s massive grocery operation also promotes industrialized farming, they allege, and the Sierra Club has pointed out that stores’ 24-hour operations make for more energy consumption.

“The argument that academics make, and that I’d make too, is Walmart is many times the size of Target or Costco. [Those stores are] big, but they’re not of such a size that they’re so incredibly influential,” says Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with ILSR.

Similarly, many consumers are more likely to go green when it’s cost-effective. The need for cheap groceries can be more pressing than any environmental repercussions. But low prices can create a vicious cycle. Walmart, the employer of 2.1 million workers, has borne heavy criticism for its compensation policies, particularly its recent cuts to health coverage for some workers.

That kind of cut perpetuates consumption and waste, says Mitchell: “Many people feel so strapped that they feel they have to buy the six-dollar toaster, but part of the reason that so many people are in that situation has to do with the Walmart economy.”

Read the fully story here.