Is Walmart playing the devil in disguise?

Walmart recently released its 2012 Global Responsibility Report (GRR) covering various issues facing the the retail giant. The highlights of the report are the top 10 achievements the company made last year as a way of being a responsible corporate citizen.

Here are the 10 ways in which Walmart claims it made a difference last year. Walmart:

  1. Reduced waste by 80%
  2. Expanded locally grown produce
  3. Supported women around the world
  4. Saved customers a billion dollars
  5. Announced Great Year for You Icon
  6. Utilized 1.1 billion kWh of renewable energy
  7. Integrated Sustainability Index
  8. Responded to natural disasters
  9. Grew global direct farm program
  10. Nurtured diversity and inclusion

But there is another report that has been published by  Food & Water Watch and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance called the Top Ten Ways Walmart Fails on Sustainability. Since 2005, Walmart has positioned itself as a leader in corporate sustainability, but it has done little for the environment. Here are 10 ways that Walmart fails on Sustainability:

  1. Selling shoddy products
  2. Reduction in waste is minuscle compared to waste generated
  3. Lagging on Renewable Energy 
  4. Increasing GHG emissions
  5. Voraciously consuming land
  6. Financing anti-environment candidates
  7. Consolidating and Industrialzing Food production
  8. The distribution model favors locally grown produce
  9. Degrading organic
  10. Spreading poverty

Walmart was ranked as the Fortune 1 Company for the year 2010 and with the current sales of $420 billion, the company impacts massively resulting from its huge footprint across US and through out the world. It has more than 8600 stores and retail outlets operating under 55 different banners in 15 countries, employing more than 2 million associates worldwide.  Though many view Walmart as an exploiter of human labor, the company’s push to sustainability along with its over 100,000 supplier’s world over is also a well-publicized fact. Walmart’s strategic cornerstone of its business model has always been to drive costs out of the products, but in a bid to “Save money to live better”, company may have overlooked certain aspects.

It can’t be argued that Walmart now has become the poster child for sustainability, simply because the impact that it is generating by going green and encouraging the greening of its supply chain. No doubt, the products it sells may be cheap and low in quality, which means faster disposal, and the incomes of their associates may help spread poverty, and it may not have reached its renewable energy targets – but overall, Walmart’s sustainability efforts are paying off forcing the entire industry to re-evaluate their supply chains.

If nothing else, one of the offshoots of this movement is their associates taking on their Personal Sustainability Projects (PSP’s) and My Sustainability Plans (MSP’s) – like quitting smoking, walking/cycling to work, recycling etc.

“Walmart’s carbon footprint is still growing, but at a much slower rate than before”

A company like Walmart can’t escape the limelight – good or bad. It may come across as a devil in disguise, but a disguise that affects the industry in a postive way can’t be all that bad. Consistently being under the scanner will naturally reveal the weak spots – which will be true for any other company on the planet. The key is that it has taken the initiative and the lead in showing what can be achieved. Hurricane Katrina spurred Walmart on this path. Do we really need such disasters for companies to awaken their conscience?

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Comments

  1. Big stores that pave over natural areas are never going to be good for the enivronment. That’s not what they were designed for and we just need to stop supporting them. Barter, do urban gardening and buy only what you need.

    • No denying the fact about the cons of big stores. But urban gardening is a good thought and sustainable for short scale only. Scaling is a huge issue. The large scale demand can’t be fulfilled from it. Whether we like it or not, big stores do solve our varied needs. And with growth happening in India and China, these are a must…perhaps more sustainable than any other thing. The otherwise wated land/landfill will be put to good use.

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