Wal-Mart's Leslie Dach on "The Company of the Future"


George Frey/Bloomberg News

Leslie Dach used to do government relations work for Environmental Defense and served on the Audubon Society board. He was an advance man for Senator Edward Kennedy in his failed run for the nomination in 1980, and, later, as communications director for Michael Dukakis’s campaign in 1988, (according to the New Yorker, he says he was thousands of miles away during the famous tank moment), and now he is the Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Government Relations for Wal-Mart and "reports directly to CEO Lee Scott and also manages communications, government relations and the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Foundation for the company."

We have always been ambivalent about Wal-Mart, promoting as we do the local Small-Mart instead. Nonetheless they continue to say interesting things and hire interesting people. When Leslie Dach contacted us about doing a guest post about their recent initiatives we thought it might make interesting reading. The post he sent us follows.

Last week, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott outlined an expanded sustainability leadership plan for Wal-Mart, with new goals to take action on energy efficiency, ethical sourcing and health care. These new commitments will build on the vision Lee Scott first announced in a speech in 2005 (covered in TreeHugger here ). That vision included three goals:

* To be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy
* To create zero waste
* To sell products that sustain our resources and the environment

Since then, we’ve worked to drive change by taking a holistic approach to sustainability. We’re examining our own footprint and making our stores and trucking fleet more efficient. We’re engaging our associates and helping them make sustainability part of their lives. But we’re also looking at areas outside of our own four walls where we believe we can have an impact. We have more than 61,000 suppliers around the globe—so we are working with them to encourage them to make their products and operations more sustainable. One of our greatest opportunities is with the 176 million customers who shop in our stores each week. We don’t think they should have to choose between products they can afford and products that are better for their families and the environment.

As you may have read in TreeHugger here and discussed on Treehugger, we’re making progress..

When it comes to energy efficiency, today, we see new opportunities to help our customers be a part of the solution. We will:

* Work with suppliers to make the most energy intensive products on our shelves 25% more efficient by 2011;
* Double the sales of key products for home energy efficiency;
* Work with suppliers to reduce prices on items that significantly reduce energy use for customers; and
* Explore ways Wal-Mart could provide renewable energy directly to customers.

We also discussed additional measures to assure our customers that our products are made in a safe, ethical and environmentally responsible way.. Moving forward, Wal-Mart will launch a major effort to improve standards in the supplier factories from which our company sources.

Specifically, we will:

* Require all suppliers who work with us through global procurement, who are domestic importers, or who are manufacturers of Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart private brands to demonstrate that their factories meet specific environmental, social and quality standards.
* Work only with suppliers who maintain our standards throughout our relationship.
* Favor, and, in some cases, pay more for qualified suppliers and quality products.

For many years, I have been active on environmental issues—including service on the Boards of Audubon and the World Resources Institute. To have the opportunity to help manage Wal-mart’s contributions in this area has not only been exciting, but personally gratifying. As the world’s largest retailer, we can lead on some of the greatest challenges facing us today. And we can make a difference for our customers, our suppliers, our industry, and our world.

To read the full text of Lee Scott’s speech, click here