I heard that Walmart is having a bigger positive impact on the environment than any other U.S. institution. What are they doing along these lines?
—R. Schlansker, Beaverton, OR
Walmart has indeed been working to clean up its image in recent years, and many environmentalists are pleased with the company’s commitment to reduce its massive carbon footprint. Many, however, view the company’s initiatives with skepticism, especially considering its overall impact on communities.
What’s noteworthy on the environmental front is not so much the significant energy and emissions the company is reducing at its stores and distribution centers and in its vehicles, but the ripple effect that its new carbon-cutting policies are having on the entire supply chain. This March, Walmart CEO Mike Duke announced a new goal of eliminating 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from its global supply chain—the equivalent of taking more than 3.8 million cars off the road for a year—by the end of 2015.
“To find these reductions, Walmart will be asking its estimated 100,000 suppliers to cut the amount of carbon they emit when they produce, package and ship their products,” reports Dominique Browning of Environmental Defense Fund, which has been a key advisor to Walmart on green issues. Browning cites Walmart’s elimination of large laundry detergent bottles—since so much of them are water and energy-intensive to ship—in favor of concentrates sold in smaller bottles. As a result, concentrated laundry detergent is now the top seller at not only Walmart but at other stores, too. Walmart also convinced CD, DVD and video game makers to make their cases lighter to reduce transport carbon emissions, and they helped energy efficient compact fluorescent light bulb sales by spurring makers to refine their designs.