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.