"Attention TreeHugger Shoppers"

This past week was an important one for Wal-mart. In ways that we think herald the future of Corporate America at large, international attention was focused on presentations hosted at the retail giant's Bentonville headquarters. During Al Gore's visit, noted by the Associate Press, he " praised Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for a newfound focus on environmental sustainability, saying it showed there was no conflict between the environment and the economy". Executives readied for Mr. Gore's visit, as reported by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette : "Matt Kistler, Sam's Club vice president of product development, bought former Vice President Al Gore's book on global warming at an airport and read it cover-to-cover on a 14-hour flight from Brazil". (We're wondering if Inconvenient Truth will be offered at a special price?)

US media looked on, with the Los Angeles Times commenting that "Bentonville, Ark., seemed like an Emerald City of sorts Wednesday "

Environmental NGO's braced for the increasingly real possibility that Wal-mart would lead a transformation, with Environmental Defense even suggesting it would hire the necessary staff to partner with the world's largest retail store.

What brings environmental celebrity to Bentonville? Simple. The power players are there to give positive reinforcement, hoping that other corporate executives won't have a choice but to follow if they want to see their products get on Wal-Mart's shelves, and their "goesintas" allowed in those products. Get to this "first down" and the crowd will come to its feet. That's "Theory A" for explaining the attraction.

Perfectly cued to the occasion and no surprise from the company famed for strategic follow-through, Ad-Age this week splashed the headline story: "Wal-Mart Starts Its Organic-Food Push Multi-Million Dollar Campaign Puts Emphasis on Low Price" The leadoff: "Amid its $578 million review, Wal-Mart Stores is kicking off a multi-million dollar campaign focused on its new organic food offerings. The TV, radio, online, print and in-store push "

Here are two highlights from the AdAge piece :

"As Wal-Mart positions itself to win over more affluent shoppers, the focus on organic food -- once considered a luxury of the affluent -- comes in the one category where it beats rival Target Stores handily".
"The two barriers to organics has always been one, finding it, and the other, affording it. Wal-Mart has taken down both these barriers."

Wal-Mart's need to create the draw is explained by the "once considered a luxury of the affluent" phrase. With the retailer's traditional customer base forced to hand over to energy companies an ever expanding chunk of disposable income, they want to include TreeHuggers in their market. Therein lies the choice of our headline.

Now we know we'll be hearing from our readers about other issues that need also to be addressed. But remember, it's early in the game.