Home > Environment > Wal-Mart saving the planet?

Wal-Mart saving the planet?


The power of businesses in the drive toward a sustainable energy economy is undeniably HUGE. Retailers in particular have the power to influence how we move toward sustainability in broad sweeping strokes through the direct and indirect influence they have over the products they sell. They not only choose whether or not to offer items supplied by green companies like Seventh Generation and Horizon, but can also require members of their supply chain to follow rules designed to meet their internal goals on green and sustainable initiatives. These large retailers are literally the gatekeepers to the consumer.

The exercise of this control is old hat for the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. When I worked for General Mills, 25% of our total business went to Wal-Mart. One out of four boxes of Cheerios and Toaster Strudel ended up on the Wal-Mart shelves. When Wal-Mart wanted a change to (for example) a new cereal box geometry, we jumped – and jumped quickly.

Now Wal-Mart is using this control to make their supply chain more green and sustainable. While others make announcements about going green, the iconic box store has been moving swiftly and quietly along this path without the usual fanfare that we’ve come to expect.  With shockingly little fanfare, Wal-Mart has revolutionized its supply chain, establishing a new level of sustainability in its products.

“…Wal-Mart seems intent on saving the Amazon rainforest – and, shockingly, the company may just do it. [They’ve made] some smaller, fun announcements around things like plastic bags, but the real story [is] the pact on sourcing. No more beef or soy from lands cleared from the Amazon. No more slave labor in the supply chain.”

~Andrew Winston, Green Business Blog

And Wal-Mart is doing this while still maintaining the low prices that they’re famous for.

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Categories: Environment
  1. April 21, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    Wal-Mart’s made astonishing progress in cleaning up their supply chain, and by all indicators, they’re just getting started. They’ve been very careful not to crow too much about any small improvements (shifting from conventional to organic textiles on *some* products), so they’re not held to a standard they can’t support across entire product lines. But the sheer market share they can affect with their Supplier Scorecard system is staggering.

    • April 24, 2010 at 8:49 pm

      I agree – walmart has made HUGE strides – i’m excited to see what they move on next. thanks for the comment, Steve!

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