Wednesday, March 14, 2007

‘Big Corporate’ Jumps On the Sustainability Bandwagon

Sustainability has become the new trademark of Wal-Mart, according to the mega-chain’s CEO, Lee Scott.

Wal-Mart is looking to sell sustainable consumer electronics that use eco-friendly materials and are kinder on the environment.

Products will be graded using a scorecard that evaluates energy efficiency and durability. Wal-Mart’s electronics will also be graded on the amount of packing they use, their potential for recycling, and the level of hazardous substances found inside them.

The new face of Wal-Mart will have a very aggressive ‘sustainable agenda,’ Scott said, with the ambitious goal of “100 percent renewable energy, zero waste, and sustainable products.” In typical corporate style, however, Wal-Mart has not indicated when they will achieve their sustainability objectives.

This is precisely why the socially responsible investors (SRI) remain skeptical about Wal-Mart’s long-term goals.

Why the skepticism? Oh yeah, Wal-Mart is another one of those self-serving corporations who give little regard to the ripple effect their actions have on the public at large.

As the SRI rightly point out, Wal-Mart has more problems than a 10,000-mile supply chain and wasteful products. Let’s not forget that Wal-Mart has been accused of selling products made using sweatshop labour, of preventing its employees from forming unions, of inadequate wages and of exacerbating urban sprawl.

If Wal-Mart is serious about its sustainability image, it will have to do more than make speeches and talk about solar panels and windmills.

The ‘green’ Wal-Mart of the future requires some real and significant changes to its infrastructure and the products on its shelves.

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