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Dow Jones reports that Wal-Mart issued its first major report on its sustainability and environmental efforts this week, detailing “dozens of programs ranging from environmental to economic development, employee health care and ethics in overseas factories where it buys goods.

“Most have been reported previously, but the 64-page report is the first comprehensive catalog of dozens of programs, from organic cotton clothes to low- energy freezer cases, launched since Chief Executive Lee Scott set three green goals in October 2005.

“Those goals are to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste and to sell products that help sustain resources and the environment. Scott did not set any timelines, although there are deadlines for some of the steps in striving for those goals.”

In his introduction to the study, Scott wrote that sustainability is a smart economic move for the company: "We make no claims of being a green company. And we're not saying we're better than other companies. But what we are saying is we're doing sustainability in a way that's real and right for Wal-Mart and is touching the lives of millions of people around the world.”

And, Scott wrote, it is an ongoing process: “"Our carbon footprint is growing slower but it is still growing. We are reducing waste but we are far from the day when we have eliminated waste in our stores."

KC's View:
There are those who will say that Wal-Mart is hurting its profits and share price by engaging in these initiatives, and should immediately cease such strategies and tactics. There are others who say that Wal-Mart isn’t doing nearly enough, and that its moves are cosmetic.

They’re both wrong, in my view.

Wal-Mart is doing far more than raising the bar in terms of what companies need to do on sustainability. It is raising consciousness among consumers…and it probably is fair to say that it has changed the debate and influenced the dialog.

All of which is a good thing.