WAL-MART AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY

Following a management decision in 2005 Wal-Mart Corporation decided to embrace sustainability throughout all its stores. Because “sustainability” includes both environmental care and social benefit, this decision is consistent with IPPA’s principle that ethical guidelines should inform public policies. In quoting from an article titled, “Green-Light Specials, Now at Wal-Mart” reported by Stephanie Rosenbloom and Michael Barbaro in the New York Times January 25, 2009, “Wal-Mart has done well by doing good”. Together with McDonald’s Corporation, Wal-Mart was one of only two companies in the Dow Jones Industrial average whose share price rose last year.
Wal-Mart, pushed into this effort by criticism from environmental groups for being a polluter as well as having a negative image on labor and employee health care issues, began working with activists to improve its environmental record. Wal-Mart has subsequently laid out long term goals for using renewable energy, creating zero waste and selling products that will help to sustain the earth’s resources and environment. The effect of Wal-Mart’s decision to sell fluorescent light bulbs has forced General Electric to greatly increase their production. Wal-Mart’s decision to carry only concentrated laundry detergent, has pushed Proctor and Gamble to change its manufacturing process for that product in the US and around the world. Wal-Mart predicts its customers will save more than 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic resin, 125 million pounds of cardboard and 520,000 gallons of diesel fuel over three years. They have also introduced recycling of loose plastic and improved fuel efficiency in their trucks by modifying their design.
Wal-Mart’s profits climbed $1.5 billion in 2008 over the 2006 fiscal year. Their total sales increased $60 billion in the same period.
Quoting Lee Scott Jr., Wal-Mart’s current CEO, “As businesses we have a responsibility to society….There is no conflict between delivering value to shareholders and helping solve bigger societal problems”.
The recent experience at Wal-Mart is an object lesson:  doing the right thing is good business.

Should we, the public, demand this type of sustainable behavior from other companies with whom we do business?  Should we demand of our legislators changes in business tax policy that will encourage similar sustainable practices? If you know of other organizations that have adopted this policy, please let us know.
IPPA looks forward to your comments.

One Response to “WAL-MART AND ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY”

  1. Jim Says:

    Yes. I think corporations should serve the public good. Why else should society grant them many privileges and rights?

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