The Greening of Wal-Mart
Many--and I'm among them--have criticized Wal-Mart for multiple misdeeds: community wrecking, employee mistreatments, etc. But, in 2003 the company began implementing its environmental initiatives, which have had a positive impact in several areas: packaging, lighting, agriculture, merchandising, and more.
Today I received a copy of an article about Wal-Mart from an obvious fellow doubter. Jim Fitzpatrick, a solar promoter from Delaware, is as astonished as I am by Wal-Mart's environmental achievements and influence. I hope you enjoy his perspective in this slightly edited version as much as I did.
Wal-Mart Goes Green: The World's First Quintuple Play
"Watching baseball's first quadruple play was strange. Seeing Wal-Mart go green is stranger still.
First the baseball: the scene was a game of T-Ball, where everyone bats every inning, regardless of the number of outs. The bases were loaded when a line drive ended up in the glove of the pitcher. While he wondered how it got there, all the runners took off without tagging up. The pitcher ran to third, then second, then first.
We kept counting the number of outs and they did not add up. First in our heads: that doesn't make sense; then on our hand: that's crazy; then our other hand: it kept adding up to four outs. It took us a while to believe what we saw right in front of us.
And now, Wal-Mart, the original black hat, is going green--or better said, sustainable. Let that sink in because it is true--big time. Some think that the company could end up being one of the greenest companies ever...as in history of the world.
Wal-Mart has made believers out of not just the biggest environmental organizations, like the Environmental Defense Fund and the World Wildlife Federation, but also Wal-Mart's suppliers.
It started five years ago when Wal-Mart announced three goals: 1) 100 percent renewable energy; 2) zero waste; 3) sustainable products.
Wal-Mart stores have already gone sustainable on dozens of fronts from shipping to selling to storing to recycling. Last year, Wal-Mart saved 4.8 billion plastic shopping bags. That's how they roll in Bentonville: big.
Even the combined efforts of 8400 stores with two million associates doing $400 billion in sales every year was not enough: Wal-Mart figured out 90 percent of the carbon was coming from its supply chain. So it reached down to all its 100,000 vendors--and their vendors and their vendors--and told them that reducing carbon footprints (reducing energy) will save money.
Everyone knows that is what Wal-Mart is all about.
'And vendors are listening,' said Tom Rooney, CEO of SPG Solar in Novato, California, one of the largest solar installers in the country. 'We are seeing renewed and intense interest in industrial- and commercial-scale solar because of Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble and other companies.'
Not that many need much coaxing: Financial incentives for solar today are so strong that many companies are essentially getting free energy and more by buying a new solar array from the money they will save from lower energy bills and having a big chunk left over.
Now, on top of that, the largest companies in the world are saying solar and other renewables have to be a part of their supply chain. By some estimates, one in three dollars worldwide is associated with a company that does business with Wal-Mart. So, if you shift Wal-Mart and its suppliers, the global economy shifts with it, says R. Paul Herman at hipinvestor.com. Or, as The New York Times, puts it: 'because of its size and power, Wal-Mart usually gets what it wants.'
Wal-Mart wants renewable energy.
Wal-Mart: not just for beating up anymore, or maybe we are just seeing the world's first quintuple play."