The Red, White and Blue Is Turning Green

Wal-Mart is going green. The company, which is often criticized for its labor practices, is getting serious about sustainability. The truly interesting thing here is how this initiative perfectly fits their corporate culture, for sustainability pactices, when properly implemented, will lead to reduced costs and increased profits.
Speaking in London on Feb. 1, Wal-Mart President and CEO Lee Scott said:

“Sustainability 360” takes in our entire company — our customer base, our supplier base, our associates, the products on our shelves, the communities we serve. And we believe every business can look at sustainability in this way. In fact, in light of current environmental trends, we believe they will and soon.
Perhaps the most far-reaching opportunity we have with our suppliers is a simple idea with potentially profound consequences. Just think about this: What if we worked with our suppliers to take non-renewable energy off our shelves and out of the lives of our customers? We could create metrics and share best practices so our suppliers could make products that rely less and less on carbon-based energy.

I’ve never been a fan of Wal-Mart, and I fear this might be a PR stunt, but as I take it all in, it seems genuine. It seems like Lee Scott got religion. Provided this is real and Wal-Mart follows through on its promises, the ripple effect isn’t just better PR for Wal-Mart, it’s real change for people and communities around the globe.
For instance, Wal-Mart will work with suppliers to reduce packaging by five percent by 2013 — an effort that will be equal to removing 213,000 trucks from the road, and saving approximately 324,000 tons of coal and 67 million gallons of diesel fuel per year. That’s just one example. Multiply these factors by each sustainable action taken, and you can begin to see how big this is.
For more on this, visit the retailer’s web site, where they detail their commitment to sustainability via a “transparent tour of the concepts, systems and metrics that define 21st century business leadership.”
While I can only guess at the origins of this development, I’m willing to bet that Lee Scott and his close advisors read Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins. The book is even stocked on the shelves at your local Wal-Mart.

About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am now head of brand strategy and creative direction at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.