Green Walmart?

Green Walmart?

Since launching its sustainability mission in 2005, Walmart has communicated a long list of announcements and promises about reducing waste, cutting energy use, and selling healthier food.

It needed to do this. By 2010, almost 40 percent of Americans had an unfavorable view of Walmart. It was important for the company to win over this chunk of the country—nearly half the population—any way it could. Rebranding itself as a pro-green, pro-health corporate giant has been part of the solution, I guess.

And it has actually worked. Today, the number of Americans who hold an unfavorable view of Walmart has dropped to 20 percent—an amazing feat of public relations, if nothing else. Too bad Walmart’s sustainability mission doesn’t live up to its own hype.

According to a new study by the non-profit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), the so-called “Green Walmart” has seriously under-delivered on its environmental promises.

Here is ISLR’s list of Walmart’s biggest eco-sins:

Converting to 100-percent green power’s going to take a long, long time
In 2005, Walmart boldly announced its goal of converting to 100-percent renewable energy. Eight years later, green power (wind and solar) accounts for only two percent of the company’s total power usage. At this pace, it will take approximately 300 years for Walmart to make good on its promise.

The big head-fake on green product rankings
In 2009, Walmart announced that it was developing a green product ranking system. But more than three years later, this system still does not exist—and there is no evidence that greener products are edging more environmentally damaging ones off Walmart shelves.

Walmart sells toasters for $6.24
Why is this an eco sin? Because extremely cheap consumer products actively accelerate the flow of goods from factory to landfill.

Walmart funds politicians who routinely vote against the environment
In 2009−2010, 77 percent of Walmart’s state-level campaign funding went to Republicans—including several climate-change denying governors, like Rick Perry.

So, what’s the big takeaway here?

It’s that ‘Green Walmart’ knows you care about the environment, and it’s using deceptive marketing to keep you onside.

Don’t swallow this spin. Dig deeper; ask questions. Demand that Walmart account for the mistakes it has made—and continues to make—when it comes to the environment. For a lot of us, how we spend our dollars is the greatest power we have. Don’t use that power to help a company that doesn’t deserve it.

April 11, 2012