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Same old song from Wal-Mart, it’s not easy being green.

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posted on Jul, 16 2009 @ 10:57 AM
Wal-Mart recently announced that it will provide a “sustainability index” on every product they sell. For international ATS members, I'm aware that Wal-Mart has locations world-wide, please excuse my mostly local angle. I think you will all find this interesting and pertinant.

Wal-Mart intends to announce the sustainability index at a meeting on Thursday, July 16, at its corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., to which hundreds of suppliers, academics, environmentalists, and government officials have been invited. There, the company will unveil a sustainability consortium led by the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University that will provide scientific research to support the effort. Faculty at Duke, Harvard, Stanford, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Michigan have been involved in planning the index, but they haven't yet agreed to join the consortium, in part because some college administrators are skittish about working with Wal-Mart. – Marc Gunther, July 13th, 2009

Here's Gunther's entire article:

Wal-Mart To Become Green Umpire

But ask yourself why would some college administrators be on board such a seemingly postive environmental project while others are "skittish"?

"The idea is to be as comprehensive as possible," says Jon Johnson, who holds the Walton professorship in sustainability at the University of Arkansas. "Unless you look at the entire life cycle of the product, you just can't measure the environmental impact." Johnson and Jay Golden, an assistant professor in the school of sustainability at Arizona State, are leading the consortium. - Marc Gunther

That makes sense, those on board are beholding to Wal-Mart. Jonathan Johnson is a professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. That "Walton professorship".

Wal-Mart has been touting “going green” seemingly on a yearly basis. They’ve been going but never arriving.

From 2000: Wal-Mart Goes Green for All Seasons

From 2005: Is Wal-Mart going green?

From 2006: Wal-Mart goes green

From 2007: Wal-Mart Commits to Going Green

From 2008: Wal-Mart Goes Green, Small Towns Still See Red

This all seems a happy-talk green advertising campaign to me. I doubt whether Wal-Mart competitors such as Target or Costco are substantially less green. They simply don't have the advertising budgets. If Wal-Mart were a mostly "green" entity they would not have to continually blow their own horn. I think this is predominantly a take advantage of the political climate ad campaign.

The fact that the world’s largest retailer does so much business in China already deeply troubles some of the “green crowd.” - Douglas A. McIntyre

The entire McIntyre article:

Wal-Mart (WMT) Gets Greener By The Day

I for one doubt whether this current “green” push will move their Chinese, Indonesian and various non-US suppliers into more sustainable production. Wal-Mart’s customer base has traditionally been price conscious shoppers. I see increased production restraints being passed to the consumer in higher prices. In my opinion, independent verification of production sustainability for Wal-Mart suppliers operating in mainland China would be costly and met with resistance. I could see China providing positive but unverified sustainability reports while conducting business as usual. No country or industry is devoid of corrupt and greedy business practices. China readily comes to mind in that it seems just months have elapsed since we were confronted with incidents of melamine being added to pet food and baby formula. Those incidents caused human deaths and suffering, animal deaths and suffering and were attributed to “lax government regulation and corporate cover-ups”.

Chinese Tainted Milk Company Accused Of Cover-Up

Wal-Mart, although a powerful entity, would have little recourse but to accept what China gives. In the meantime, Wal-Marts’ few remaining US based suppliers would be stressed again with another level of costly checks and balances. This stress could cost more US jobs with unemployment already approaching all time highs.

It would appear that Wal-Mart is holding all the chips and owns the dealer. To my thinking this is another power play disguised as environmental responsibility. I don’t like the chances of Wal-Mart competitors surviving this latest onslaught.

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