Wal-Mart Says Environmental Initiatives About Money, Not Brand Image

by | Apr 13, 2010

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walmart truck2Wal-Mart’s efforts in recent years to adopt renewable energy and supply chain sustainability initiatives is more about the bottom line than it is about image, said Wal-Mart Chairman Lee Scott.

Speaking at the Fortune Brainstorm Green business conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Scott indicated that if the efforts had been solely about brand enhancement, the environmental efforts would have surely been scaled back during the recent economic downturn, reports CNET.

“What Wal-Mart has done is approach this from a business standpoint and not from a point of altruism. If we as a company focus on waste, we can make Wal-Mart a better company and at the same time, become a better citizen,” he said at the conference.

Despite saying that image has not been an overriding factor, Scott did say that part of the strategy has been reaching out to those aged 25-35 years who tend to be more eco-conscious, reports Huliq.

Wal-Mart has been setting the bar when it comes to supply chain sustainability efforts, including its packaging scorecard and the far-ranging sustainability index.

The retailer in 2009 introduced its sustainability index to grade suppliers and products on a range of environmental and sustainable factors. In 2008, the retailer’s Sustainable Packaging Scorecard aimed at getting suppliers to reduce the amount of packaging in their products, and eliminating any negative environmental impact of their packaging.

More recently, Wal-Mart’s called for the reduction of 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by the end of 2015 with help from its suppliers. This translates into 150 percent of the giant retailer’s estimated global carbon footprint growth over the next five years.

In March, the chain began working with its Chinese suppliers to address energy efficiency and environmental impacts.

Even when faced with costly lawsuits, the response has been to institute environmental efforts. One example is the agreement to install solar systems at two planned California superstores as a means of settling two lawsuits it faced over future emissions at the sites.

In other news from the conference, Wal-Mart said it was researching how to construct stores with materials that more easily revert back to the Earth at the end of the store’s life, reports CNN/Money.

In other green building aspects, the store has been using rubber in store baseboards that are made partly from recycled diapers, and using concrete composed of 20 percent fly ash, which is a byproduct of coal power generation.

Packaging efficiencies also play a big role in Scott’s vision for Wal-Mart.

For instance, Scott said more efficient packaging standards for some toys has resulted in 215 fewer containers shipped per year.

Another effort, involving loading trucks more efficiently, is helping cut the company’s fuel bill by 38 percent.

Scott recently participated in a Q&A with Grist, where he discussed the bottom-line goals.

“As I got exposed to the opportunities we had to reduce our impact, it became even more exciting than I had originally thought: It is clearly good for our business,” Scott told Grist. “We are taking costs out and finding we are doing things we just do not need to do, whether it be in packaging, or energy usage, or the kind of equipment we buy for refrigeration in our stores, that there are a number of decisions we can make that are great for sustainability and great for bottom-line profit.”

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