Wal-Mart's Big Green Claim

By Tracey Bianchi 7-21-2009

090721-wal-martWell color me happy (as the saying goes): Wal-Mart just released a big claim to be greening up its act. But what does their claim really mean and how do we define what corporate green looks like anyway? Especially since lately, corporate green seems to grow everywhere, at times fertilized by a healthy dose of corporate greed.

My savvy corporate sister-in-law forwarded me this great little article from Harvard Business Publishing. She's smart and has an MBA, so she reads things with the word Harvard in them. It is an interesting read. In a nutshell, it lets us all know that Wal-Mart has just announced a policy that lends a bit of eco-integrity to their business practices. The corporate policies of this global giant (as in their annual earnings are larger than the GDP of many smaller nations) have long been lamented by those who have a passion for anything of significance, like, say, worker's rights, the environment, fair trade. You know, little things like that.

So now, Wal-Mart has leaned into the challenges stemming from the environmental front by stating that they will require their suppliers to list the environmental impact of their product on the label -- meaning that the chemicals, packaging, shipping fuel, etc. that it takes to land an item on the shelf will need to be boiled down into a neat little label that tells the consumer exactly how much stress that box of CDs or that bath mat placed on our ecosystems. And while I am about to unleash my own version of skepticism on all of this, I will pause here to say I APPLAUD THEM FOR THIS.

I have been a Wal-Mart naysayer for many years. I have managed to steer clear of the store of for four years straight (except for two horrible visits, one that I unpack here). So for me to applaud this effort is no small task. But indeed, I do applaud it. Does it make me want to shop there anytime soon? Nope. But I do believe that green steps, regardless of how big or small, need to be celebrated. And here we have a corporate behemoth taking a Goliath sized green step, so I will sit back and clap my hands (albeit with some skepticism).

Their step makes a big difference. According the the article cited above, 130 million Americans visit a Wal-Mart each week. And since there are a bit over 300 million of us, this means that nearly half of all Americans hit what my husband calls "Wally World" each and every week. This gives Wal-Mart the sort of power and responsibility that, quite frankly, I am not sure our federal government even wields.

But here is why I am not about to toss my kids into the car and dash out for cheap juice boxes ...

[to be continued]

portrait-tracey-bianchiTracey Bianchi blogs about finding a saner, greener life from the heart of the Chicago suburbs. She wrote Green Mama: The Guilt-Free Guide to Helping You and Your Kids Save the Planet (Zondervan 2009) and blogs at traceybianchi.com.

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