business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that Walmart has posted its 2009 Global Sustainability Report on its website. Among the conclusions:

• “A goal of improving fuel efficiency in its truck fleet by 25 percent by October 2008 led to a 38 percent improvement, and a goal of selling 100 million energy-efficient compact fluorescent light bulbs by the end of 2007 resulted in 137 million sold.”

• “A goal of, in effect, banning use of 20 chemicals in products led, instead, to a screening tool that the company says provides a more comprehensive way to identify potential risks to consumers.”

• “From February 2008 to January 2009, 57 percent of the waste from its stores was ‘redirected’ so that it did not end up in landfills. The original goal of a 25 percent solid waste reduction by October 2008 was set aside, the report says, while Wal-Mart worked with its waste haulers to develop a method of measuring its waste stream.

According to the story, “Wal-Mart acknowledged in its report that it has not met its goal of reducing its so-called ‘carbon footprint,’ the amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere as a result of its operations. While the company has improved the energy efficiency of its operations, it also has continued to grow in the United States and globally, resulting in greater energy consumption.”

Despite the improvements, Walmart remains under fire for personnel policies that critics say are anti-union and exploit workers; the company also faces accusations that it does not adequately police the policies of its offshore suppliers.
KC's View:
Critics are always going to find something to criticize. But there seems little question that Walmart is moving in the right direction when it comes to sustainability and that it is seeing economic benefits from its environmental initiatives. Smart business, in other words … and efforts that in the long run give the Bentonville Behemoth an enormous differential advantage.