Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Wal-Mart's Environmental Game-Changer
Harvard Business Publishing ^ | Thursday July 16, 2009 | Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Posted on 07/16/2009 11:57:05 PM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Wal-Mart has just changed the game with respect to environmental issues. Now it doesn't matter whether Congress' new cap-and-trade law meets all its promises, nor whether the G-8 leaders dithered rather than acted on environmental issues.

Wal-Mart's unilateral decision to put its purchasing and communication power behind going green also shows that a single company using its unique clout can accelerate public action to reduce greenhouse gases and reverse climate change. By rolling out an environmental labelling program disclosing to consumers the environmental costs of making products sold at Wal-Mart, the $401 billion retail behemoth has transformed green standards from nice-to-have to must-have.

Say au revoir, adios, auf Weidersehen, zai jain, and rest-in-peace to environmental skeptics and laggards; they are soon to be out of the picture. And it did not take legislation to neutralize them. It took a principled action by a self-interested company. That is values-based capitalism at its best.

This is one small step for Wal-Mart and one giant leap for Planet Earth. It is also one enormous demand on suppliers, among them many small companies that will feel crushed by the giant's new non-carbon footprint. But though Wal-Mart spent $200 billion buying from 56,000 U.S. suppliers in 2007, a high proportion of Wal-Mart's total annual purchases emanate from China where it's high time environmental standards are raised.

The beauty of the Wal-Mart innovation is that it doesn't ask anyone to change anything except the information that is provided and received. If polluters want to keep polluting, they are free to do so as long as they provide that data on their Wal-Mart labels. And if consumers choose to buy from polluters whose labels they can read, they are free to do so. In theory.

In practice, of course, we know that suppliers will change their practices to avoid embarrassing disclosures, and consumers will think twice about the choices they make. Consumer activists have been clamoring for information. At a recent conference discussing the company of the future, many seemingly informed people were astonished to learn how many gallons of water it took to make just one cup of Starbucks (or anyone's) take-out coffee - they had forgotten irrigation of coffee plants, fluids consumed by transportation of coffee and manufacturing of paper cups, and so forth.

We also know that the Wal-Mart concept is certain to be emulated by other retailers in their own ways. Who could possibly hold themselves up as Not-Green when over 130 million people visit a Wal-Mart store every week, according to company figures, and are made more conscious of environmental concerns? You can bet that a competition will ensue among retailers to out-do Wal-Mart in having the best green-oriented program. That might make "cheapest" the battle of the past and redefine "value" in the minds of consumers and the public.

Wal-Mart is not the first company to go green, nor even the first to reach deeply into its supply chain to require that suppliers meet particular standards. But it is the biggest, the most visible, and the least likely, given its past reputation. Its transformational action turns Wal-Mart into what I call a "SuperCorp" - a vanguard company that uses its power to improve an outcome for society, while knowing that its innovations will create profits as well as social benefits. In my new book, SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good (to be published in August by Crown), I identify a number of companies ahead of the pack in innovating for the good of society and raising standards, often in collaboration with public officials, while still keeping an eye on the bottom line, including Procter & Gamble, IBM, Cemex, and Cisco.

Wal-Mart had been the company that the left loved to hate, because it seemed to have too much power and to use it in non socially constructive ways, squeezing suppliers or keeping wages down. Today Wal-Mart reminds us that a new kind of capitalism is possible in which big companies can use their power constructively, for the good of society and to move on issues that are still largely unaddressed by government. Clearly self-interest still prevails; Wal-Mart would not be taken the labelling action, with all of its complications, if its decision-makers did not see a definite commercial market benefit.

We should applaud Wal-Mart for joining the vanguard and leading a new parade. First for the green program and all that might follow from it. Second for showing that a new model of principled, not just greedy, American capitalism can take shape.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Extended News; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: boycott; business; climatechange; environment; madeinchina; retail; walmart

1 posted on 07/16/2009 11:57:06 PM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Not really certain if they still do this, but back in the day Walmart made a point of highlighting the “Made in America” products it sold in its stores. Of course, that didn’t change the fact that most of what they sold was being made in places like China or Mexico. It was however, a reasonable enough PR move: the company was coming under criticism for selling too much imported junk and such moves helped to shut up the critics chorus - and if shoppers cared they could go out of their way to buy American, since the company was making money in any event it was no skin off their nose.

Our reliance on cheaply made Chinese junk has only gone up ever since, Walmart’s PR campaign did nothing to stop it. Their latest “green campaign” will have similar effects - namely none at all.


2 posted on 07/17/2009 12:06:13 AM PDT by eclecticEel (The Most High rules in the kingdom of men ... and sets over it the basest of men.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
Unfortunately it is not clear from the article exactly what it is that Wal-Mart plans to do. The author At Harvard Business Publishing says only, "an environmental labelling program disclosing to consumers the environmental costs of making products sold at Wal-Mart". We are told that this has "just changed the game with respect to environmental issues" but we are not told how or why except that "environmental skeptics... are soon to be put out of the picture. And it did not take legislation to neutralize them. It took a principled action by a self interested company."

Does this mean that we no longer need to Cap and Trade? Has Wal-Mart done it all?

Evidently so because the author concludes his ecstatic remarks with the following:

The beauty of the Wal-Mart innovation is that it doesn't ask anyone to change anything except the information that is provided and received. If polluters want to keep polluting, they are free to do so as long as they provide that data on their Wal-Mart labels. And if consumers choose to buy from polluters whose labels they can read, they are free to do so. In theory.

In practice, of course, we know that suppliers will change their practices to avoid embarrassing disclosures, and consumers will think twice about the choices they make. Consumer activists have been clamoring for information.

So, the author thinks we have the perfect marriage of environmentalism and capitalism:

We should applaud Wal-Mart for joining the vanguard and leading a new parade. First for the green program and all that might follow from it. Second for showing that a new model of principled, not just greedy, American capitalism can take shape.

Even the left now sees the triumph capitalism and the superfluity of Cap and Trade.


3 posted on 07/17/2009 12:34:28 AM PDT by nathanbedford ("Attack, repeat, attack!" Bull Halsey)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
“Say au revoir, adios, auf Weidersehen, zai jain, and rest-in-peace to environmental skeptics and laggards; they are soon to be out of the picture. And it did not take legislation to neutralize them. It took a principled action by a self-interested company. That is values-based capitalism at its best.”

What a bunch of bull. Goldman Sachs, GE, and Wal-Mart are all going to make billions of dollars in their partnership with the government with this green stuff. This has never been about the environment and has everything to do with control by keeping down small business and limiting new competition. The idea that people are classifying this as value-based capitalism over government/business corruption makes me sick.

4 posted on 07/17/2009 12:37:22 AM PDT by Cheap_Hessian
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

does walmart really expect the Chinese to comply? ha!


5 posted on 07/17/2009 1:01:26 AM PDT by blueplum
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Is this the same author who wrote that the Segway was surely going to change the way we live?


6 posted on 07/17/2009 2:21:00 AM PDT by gusopol3
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit; enough_idiocy; Desdemona; rdl6989; Little Bill; IrishCatholic; ...
 


Beam me to Planet Gore !

7 posted on 07/17/2009 2:31:10 AM PDT by steelyourfaith ("The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money" - Lady Thatcher)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
The Soviets already tried this experiment, it was called the GUM or "state store"....


8 posted on 07/17/2009 2:32:55 AM PDT by KTM rider
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

NOt just Walmart. McDonald’s also.

A McDonald’s opened (reopened - they tore the old one down and built this new green one in its place) in my area which provides hookups for all the electric car drivers to plug in to and get some more “juice” for their electric cars!

Isn’t that special?

The madness has almost taken full hold of corporate America and yet the Eco-Nazi’s are STILL going to destroy this nation with Cap and Trade - despite the attempts of many in big business to try to be “green” friendly.


9 posted on 07/17/2009 3:24:54 AM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nathanbedford

I should point out that I found the original article on Bloomberg and not at HBP. Can’t post a bloomberg link though.

Remember when though when you attack Cap and Trade you are attacking a system and not what that system is intended to accomplish.

By the way, Cap and Trade as a system has been proven to effectively reduce powerplant emissions (SOX and NOX) in a market-based cost-effective manner. Your real bone of contention is with the need to reduce CO2 emissions at all. By attacking the system rather than the goals of the system you are implicitly agreeing that the goals are correct, but the system is the wrong one. Thus, if you don’t think CO2 needs to be controlled, you let the left win by saying their goals are correct, but their system is wrong becaues they can always find an alternative system.


10 posted on 07/17/2009 3:49:30 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit (I am not surprised by what Obama is and to more than a little extent we do have Bush to blame.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Freedom'sWorthIt

Please see post 10 regarding your attack on Cap and Trade.

If you attack Cap and Trade then the left has already won the battle my FRiend.


11 posted on 07/17/2009 3:50:41 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit (I am not surprised by what Obama is and to more than a little extent we do have Bush to blame.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

So you have read the Cap and Trade 1200 page bill with the additional 300 page amendment which was pushed through the House of Representatives?

I will oppose Cap and Trade with every ounce of energy I have.

It will destroy what’s left of our economy.


12 posted on 07/17/2009 3:54:47 AM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Freedom'sWorthIt

If you are differentiating between the Cap and Trade bill and the premise of Cap and Trade you might wish to make that distinction.

Otherwise, as I have said, if you just fight Cap and Trade as a system, you implicitly agree that something needs to be done about CO2 emissions but Cap and Trade is the wrong system.

It is a clever ploy for the left which would rather have a direct and obvious tax on CO2 rather than a Cap and Trade system. So, they get you to attack the system. If it fails they offer an alternative and pain the right simply as the party of “No” and no ideas.


13 posted on 07/17/2009 4:01:41 AM PDT by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit (I am not surprised by what Obama is and to more than a little extent we do have Bush to blame.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
My reply was written tongue-in-cheek.


14 posted on 07/17/2009 4:12:03 AM PDT by nathanbedford ("Attack, repeat, attack!" Bull Halsey)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

You go to the store for what you need or want. The price is right , you buy it.

No one gives a red rat’s patoot about a tag on it that syas it isnt “green” enough.

Nice try Walmart——Lame.


15 posted on 07/17/2009 4:19:13 AM PDT by Venturer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nathanbedford
There are SO many points in this article to pick apart. He pretty much hits every enviro-wacko capitalism-hating talking point there is in this screed.

The author states that those of us who think the environment isn't a major issue are now irrelevant. I don't HAVE to buy the greenest products. He says that businesses will have to change their practices to comply. Yes, or change their labeling to make it LOOK like they've complied.

He makes the standard Marxist point about a business doing good instead of just being greedy (as if there is no mutual benefit between business and customer, e.g. even though I hate insurance companies, where else would I get insurance if they disappeared?)

This is an ingenious move on Wal-Mart's part. I can see Wal-Mart using this move in two ways. The first (they think) is that it will disarm the left's hatred for them. That's not going to happen of course, but they'll advertise it so much that it will make the left look shrill. It demonstrates that businesses can strike back against activists. The second thing Wal-Mart will do is use this to further beat down their suppliers on price. "Give me a lower price or I'll announce that you aren't complying with our green standards".

Finally, if I'm a Wal-Mart stockholder, who's going to enforce this wonderful utopian idea? Are Wal-Mart profits going to be spent on policing this idiocy? Why should the environmentalists' utopia come out of my pocket? The last is a rhetorical question, of course - we know they're going to take it out of my pocket one way or the other.

I suspect we're going to go from the Left hating Wal-Mart to the Right hating Wal-Mart before long. I just read somewhere the other day that the bigger a business gets, the more a part of the establishment it gets to be. At this point in history, make no mistake, "the establishment" is liberal.

16 posted on 07/17/2009 4:45:59 AM PDT by Hardastarboard (I long for the days when advertisers didn't constantly ask about the health of my genital organs.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

I trust that Wal-Mart is creative enough to make money off the idiocy emanating from our Federal government.


17 posted on 07/17/2009 5:04:24 AM PDT by Loyal Buckeye
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

My money has not been... and will never again go to walmartistan.

LLS


18 posted on 07/17/2009 5:04:27 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer (hussein will NEVER be my President... NEVER!!!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
By rolling out an environmental labelling program disclosing to consumers the environmental costs of making products sold at Wal-Mart, the $401 billion retail behemoth has transformed green standards from nice-to-have to must-have.

WalMart is smart. They know that this is going to go the way of nutritional labels: nobody cares ! They buy what they want anyway.

When they point out that, despite labeling, green products do not sell ( much like salads at MacDonalds, they'll have made their case in a way that the green people must see: no body cares !

Of course, then the green idiots will try to force people to.They'll be shown to be the totalitarians they are. It's not about green; it's about CONTROL.

19 posted on 07/17/2009 5:24:06 AM PDT by Red Boots
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Hardastarboard
Sometime ago I posted my opinion that big business, in the wake of the firing of the head of General Motors, in anticipation of the deliberate bankrupting of the call industry, the subversion of the rule of law in the Chrysler bondholder case, the presumptive nationalization of the healthcare industry, to name some of Obama's usurpations, word spur these industries and many others to protect themselves with the million-dollar public relations blitz against the Obama administration.

Boy, was I wrong.

Obama is smarter than I am, he has managed, like Adolph Hitler in 1933, to co-opt virtually every industry out of fear and greed. The American Medical Association has just gone over to his side.

Our carmakers have become tame. Goldman Sachs is leading the charge against everything holy on Wall Street and in the banking community. Wal-Mart, whether experiencing a genuine conversion or merely finessing a public relations ploy, has given Obama a lot of running room.

If Obama succeeds in getting his healthcare and/or Cap and Trade, the America I grew up in will be gone forever.


20 posted on 07/17/2009 5:41:19 AM PDT by nathanbedford ("Attack, repeat, attack!" Bull Halsey)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: Red Boots
Does this author bring up changes in technology that push more companies to "Go Green" or claim they are going "Green"?

With more products being made that are IP based, new construction gets tons of tax incentives to utilize connected building products including IP lighting, IP HVAC, IP Security, IP door strikes etc. LEEDs certification helps out initial costs and give the company some damn good press.

In the long run, it keeps the construction costs high, but the ROI is solid. It also does not hurt they they can now get away from proprietary products and companies that they must use their software.

21 posted on 07/17/2009 5:55:48 AM PDT by tndarlin
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Watch for rising prices.


22 posted on 07/17/2009 6:20:18 AM PDT by youthphil
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nathanbedford
the America I grew up in will be gone forever.

It's already gone my friend. It's all over but the shouting.

23 posted on 07/17/2009 6:23:21 AM PDT by Lurker (The avalanche has begun. The pebbles no longer have a vote.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

vomit

have they stopped cows from having flatulance yet?


24 posted on 07/17/2009 6:46:24 AM PDT by Dubya-M-DeesWent2SyriaStupid!
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
Anyone know if Target's doing something similar?

If not, guess where we'll be shopping....

25 posted on 07/17/2009 6:48:50 AM PDT by mewzilla (In politics the middle way is none at all. John Adams)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Dear Wal-Mart,
You just lost a customer.
Sincerely.


26 posted on 07/17/2009 7:08:24 AM PDT by Excellence (Meet your new mother-in-law, the United States Government)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

“In practice, of course, we know that suppliers will change their practices to avoid embarrassing disclosures, and consumers will think twice about the choices they make.”

really? we know that? I expect suppliers will see what consumers choose before making any changes at all, and I expect most wall mart shoppers to continue to buy the cheapest products regardless of labeling. In effect, business as usual. People are all for protecting the environment as long as they personally don’t have to pay for it.


27 posted on 07/17/2009 8:26:51 AM PDT by monday
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: LibLieSlayer; youthphil; mewzilla; Excellence
see #27. I wouldn't assume business at Wall Mart will change as much as the author assumes, maybe not at all. If anything it's just another clever marketing ploy by wal mart.

One other point. Wal mart isn't forcing it's suppliers to “go green”. They are just allowing customers the chance to pay more for “green” products if that is what they want to do. I doubt wal mart customers want to do that, but if a few do, who cares? Let people waste their money if it makes them happy.

28 posted on 07/17/2009 8:43:52 AM PDT by monday
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

[[Wal-Mart’s unilateral decision to put its purchasing and communication power behind going green also shows that a single company using its unique clout can accelerate public action to reduce greenhouse gases and reverse climate change.]]

BS- climate change is a NATURAL CYCLICAL EVENT which we can do absolutely nothign about- but let’s not let the FACTS get in the way of corporate greed and Walmart cashing in on people’s misguided- ignorant sense of self-loathing, their sense that they must ‘do something’ to ‘correct hte sins of we evil human beings’!

What a crock of Crap!


29 posted on 07/17/2009 9:19:00 AM PDT by CottShop (Scientific belief does not constitute scientific evidence, nor does it convey scientific knowledge)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: eclecticEel
Here, let me translate this for you edification...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Cras justo mi, eleifend id consectetur sed, rutrum a purus. Proin malesuada aliquet tellus interdum aliquet. Morbi quam lectus, porttitor laoreet blandit eu, facilisis ultrices nunc. Curabitur sit amet purus risus. Pellentesque facilisis urna eget neque ultricies facilisis. Etiam at eros elit, ut congue ipsum. In eu ipsum id nibh auctor blandit non convallis tellus. Quisque cursus orci at tortor eleifend auctor. Pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus et netus et malesuada fames ac turpis egestas. Aenean pretium ligula vel libero pharetra imperdiet. Duis rhoncus dui vitae lacus dignissim nec facilisis mi vehicula.

Praesent porta congue vulputate. Fusce auctor, ante sit amet adipiscing fringilla, urna tortor semper lectus, at malesuada diam purus ac erat. Nam dolor dui, porttitor at rhoncus vel, dictum in nunc. Pellentesque eget tristique lacus. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Praesent eget turpis odio, eu auctor arcu. Vivamus blandit quam vitae risus hendrerit venenatis. Sed non orci nec mauris semper ultricies quis at risus. Proin in facilisis enim. Duis tempus orci et ante ullamcorper pharetra. Maecenas eu erat sed elit accumsan pellentesque in quis quam. Sed tincidunt neque a eros scelerisque dignissim. Suspendisse eu eros ac orci luctus commodo ac quis risus. Vestibulum ante ipsum primis in faucibus orci luctus et ultrices posuere cubilia Curae; Aliquam libero turpis, sodales ultricies vulputate eget, lobortis dignissim elit.



IOW, it's bs. It changes NOTHING!

They said including a warning from the Surgeon General would cause folks to stop smoking. They said printing warnings on plastic would stop children from playing with it. They said listing the fat content and calories on food stuffs would be a "game changer", and we'd all eat healthier, and get really skinny, too!

A REAL "game changer" would be for Wal-Mart to REQUIRE it's suppliers to produce products that meet just our current standards on Environmental safety...but they don't, and they won't!

Why? because Consumers don't give darn about it, they just want what they want, and they want it cheap.


30 posted on 07/17/2009 10:06:27 AM PDT by papasmurf (RnVjayB5b3UsIDBiYW1hLCB5b3UgcGllY2Ugb2Ygc2hpdCBjb3dhcmQh)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

Greenies are so gullible. All WM is doing is making their suppliers put some silly lies on their labels. Nobody really knows what the environmental impact of their product is, there are too many variables, mostly in their employees and transportation. Just look at the argument over whether a Prius causes more damage than a Hummer, everybody has a pet stat on that, nobody really knows. Companies will use the most favorable assumptions, ignore everything they can get away with, and these new sections on their labels will be a bigger fiction than a Dan Brown novel. But the greenies will be happy and WM is getting good press. It’s a smart move, but not for any of the reasons in this article.


31 posted on 07/17/2009 10:14:20 AM PDT by discostu (Jeff's imagination has gone beyond the fringe of audience comprehension)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit

I am fighting both the premise the Cap and Trade is even needed (because of the globaloney spewing from the mouth of the liar Algore)....and the EFFECTS its measures will have on the economy.


32 posted on 07/17/2009 4:47:11 PM PDT by Freedom'sWorthIt
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson