I’ve been fascinated with how Wal-Mart, once one of the most notoriously unsustainable and labor-abusive corporations, has managed to transform both its image and it’s now its business to a more sustainable one. On Earth Day, Wal-Mart announced that they were adding 10-20 solar arrays onto their facilities, to accompany the 18 they already have. According to the article….”After the new solar panels are in place, the total capacity of renewable energy coming from the Walmart facilities will be 32 million kilowatt hours per year, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 22,500 metric tons, said the company.” In addition, Walmart has the goal of eventually running on 100% renewable energy, producing zero waste, and selling sustainable products.
I think it started when they decided to hire the ex-President of the Sierra Club to help transform the company. The entire story of how this happened can be read here, and it’s quite incredible. Also great is hearing from Wal-Mart’s CEO Lee Scott asking “since when is waste a business strategy?”.
A story in the New York Times back in January took a good look at Wal-Mart’s transformation, as well as how it has helped their bottom line, and drawn other big corporations along with them into the mix. Here are a few notable quotes from this. I would do a more in depth look of what Wal-Mart has been doing besides solar panels, but the Times story covers it all real well.
“By virtue of its herculean size, Wal-Mart eventually dragged much of corporate America along with it, leading mighty suppliers like General Electric and Procter & Gamble to transform their own business practices.”
“Today, the roughly 200 million customers who pass through Wal-Mart’s doors each year buy fluorescent light bulbs that use up to 75 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs, concentrated laundry detergent that uses 50 percent less water and prescription drugs that contain 50 percent less packaging.”
“It is hard to measure the financial return of a good image. But no one at Wal-Mart talks about headline risk anymore because the headlines have become largely positive. Profits climbed to $12.7 billion in the 2008 fiscal year, from $11.2 billion in the 2006 fiscal year, while sales jumped to $375 billion, from $312.4 billion, during the same period. The percentage of employees on Wal-Mart’s health insurance plan rose to 50.2 percent, from 44 percent.”
““As businesses, we have a responsibility to society,” he said this month, speaking to members of the National Retail Federation in his last public speech as Wal-Mart chief. “Let me be clear about this point. There is no conflict between delivering value to shareholders, and helping solve bigger societal problems.”