Wal-Mart's Eco-efforts - Mainstream Green or Pipe Dream?


Some time ago, Lloyd wrote a post about why it’s getting harder to hate Wal-Mart. His reasons for this were many, including the corporation’s efforts in green roofing, its purchases of green power, its sustainable fish targets, and its purchases of forest lands for conservation.

He did point out, however, that the retail giant is not all sweetness and light – especially regarding the pressure they place on suppliers to cut costs (for more criticisms, check out this Grist post on the Impossibility of a Green Wal-Mart).

Since Lloyd’s post there has also been some speculation about the company backing off their ambitious targets for organic produce, though it should be noted that this speculation was later denied.

While it would be erroneous to call any big-box, pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap retailer sustainable, Wal-Mart have been doing more than many to move towards greener business practices. Today sees yet another step in the company's efforts both to go green, and to appear to do so (readers will no doubt make their own minds up about how these two objectives ultimately balance out in practice).

Around 2000 representatives from Wal-Mart’s suppliers are gathering in Arkansas this morning for the Live Better Sustainability Summit, which is billed as a chance to hear Lee Scott and other company executives talk about the need for sustainability, transparency, efficiency and accountability all the way down the supply chain, as well as an opportunity to meet and learn from some of the most innovative green businesses, non-profit organizations and institutions in the world.

The list of exhibitors is certainly formidable, including Forest Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Alliance, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry and the Biomimicry Guild, so we are hoping that attendees will leave with some very concrete action points on how sustainability can be integrated into the core of their business, not just how it can be used to increase sales.
This event seems to be more about internal sustainability than it is about external PR, but TreeHugger has been given the opportunity of being one of the very few media representatives present.

Over the next few days we will be bringing you news of how the event went in general, as well as specific points from Wal Mart’s sustainability agenda, and hopefully conversations with some of the exhibitors and other participants.

For now though, we would love to get our readers’ perspectives on Wal Mart’s push towards sustainability – What are they doing right and what more could they do? Do you have specific questions about the company’s sustainability record or goals, or do you believe the corporation’s whole business model is essentially unsustainable and unreformable?

Whatever your views, we would love to hear from you, so leave a comment in the box below. Maybe we’ll even get a chance to pitch your views to company representatives themselves. ::Wal Mart Live Better Sustainability Summit:: Via personal invite::

Disclosure: Sami Grover is also Director of Sustainability at The Change, a company that is exhibiting at the Better Living Sustainability Summit.

Tags: Arkansas | Bentonville | Consumerism | Walmart

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