Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who Would Have Thunk It?



It is always most gratifying when positive developments occur at a place where they were least expected to happen. Environmental awareness is an idea that is not expected to be compatible with the operating philosophy of the largest retail establishment in the world; WAL MART. The company had become a symbol for profligate consumption, wrong labour practices, stingy health care, irresponsible corporate behaviour and a monopolistic price fixer. To be candid with you, the above is an adequate description of my views regarding this firm. But then I learned about the relative success that they have had with their sustainability initiatives over the past 2-3 years.

Wal Mart is so big and so powerful that no one, and I mean no one, can afford not to play by its rules, not even General Electric or Proctor and Gamble. When the retail behemoth adopted its sustainability initiatives it forced GE to supply it with 100's of millions of CFL (light bulbs that save 75% on electric use and last for 8-10 years). Thanks to Wal Mart's new policies P&G has was encouraged to reinvent the way laundry detergents are produced. As a result the consumers have saved millions of gallons of water,millions of pounds of plastic, millions of pounds of cardboard in addition to the millions of gallons of diesel fuel.

Am I seriously suggesting that these few developments are enough to lift Wal Mart into the pantheon of environmentally friendly companies? Of course not but I am suggesting that we need to commend Wal Mart for what it has done and we need to make sure that management understands that they have an obligation to continue to implement "sustainability initiatives" all across the company and all across its departments. To pick up the low fruits is not enough.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

huh, well I've never been a big fan of Wal-mart. Mainly because it's so "big and powerful," as you said. But I guess it's nice to know the company is working towards developing sustainable initiatives. Call me cynical, but I still don't believe any of the major companies are putting forth enough effort. I think most are just giving the 'Go Green' speech to gain more customers. After all, green is the new black nowadays!

Robyn Mery

ghassan karam said...

Robyn,
I am in total agreement with your skepticism..

Anonymous said...

i had watched a movie about walmart and it showed, like you said, the maltreatment of walmart to its employees and such. but knowning that they are trying to better themselves may make people change their minds about this super store.

anabel diaz

Anonymous said...

I agree, going green seems to be a huge fad lately... and these things come and go. I don't know if Walmart with continue being green when being green goes out of style. No matter what the incentive for their behavior is though, I commend their actions in this case.

Dandelion-PaceU

Anonymous said...

What Walmart is doing is certainly commendable, but I think it almost runs along the lines of too little too late. As a corporation it is only inclined to care about what its customers care about, and through the encouragement of a Game Theory culture, will attempt to sell its products however it has to.

Of course, this leads to the troubling issue of green washing. Has becoming "green" become so much of a fad that the movement has become a title and not a doctrine? Has"green" become a symbol of intellectual elitism mass marketed to a public too entranced by their own "progressiveness" to challenge the validity of a product just because it has the word "Green" on the front?

Movements like freeganism still receive little attention, although they are perhaps the most advanced in their understanding of the global impact the "food industry" has.

How many products sold today are as "green" as they actually say they are?

How can we inform ourselves which companies are truly adhering to environmentally friendly guidelines of production?

Can the mass production of any product remain profitable while adhering to these guidelines?

I'm not saying I don't trust your resources Professor, I just wanted to point out that some products similarly marketed (and perhaps even sold by WalMart!) might not be as environmentally friendly as they claim to be. I personally feel that green-washing is among the largest problems that environmentalists face today.

-Katrina Miller, NYC Campus

Laughing Skull said...

I had not known about some of those initiatives, but I did know that Walmart built a store out west to be a 'green' store that used mostly if not all renewable energy and was designed to be super efficient. However while that single store may be impressive on its own, it just isn't enough. Perhaps if it inspires other major players to do the same thing in all their new projects, and inspires all of them to update all the old facilities it could make a difference; but sadly I don't see that happening any time soon.

Greg Kofsky

Anonymous said...

Wal-Mart should be commended but only for doing something that it should be doing in an environmental that doesn't push big companies to make big moves regarding our safety and consumption.I don't feel most companies really go through their practices and ethics with the fine comb that can shave off a lot of the excess we're plagued with. A lot of the time its the excess of companies that makes people think the situation is not as deep as it really is. One green store out in the middle of nowhere is fine, but why not refining a large percentage of your stores in the same respect? Like katrina pointed out and my general disapointment in the 'green phenomenon', why is it a trend and not a doctrine? Wal-Mart should issue a statement as the big player in the game just how important it is to push these initiatives for the sake of bigger things than profits or popularity. I'm surprised to hear they took such measures and that makes me a little more optimistic about the soul if any of large corporations. However, i remain a realist and wonder if this is a turn of a new leaf or a marketing and sales endeavor. I'll never forget their history but I look forward to them setting new precedents hopefully enough to shift other companies as well.

Emily Ottoo env 112, NYC campus

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