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Wal-Mart Facing Tough Green Questions

wal-martpaperorplastic.jpgWal-Mart has been taking strides to green its brand, installing solar panels on its roof tops, reshaping milk cartons, and in one of its latest moves – asking suppliers to submit “green” products to help the company tell its story.

But critics are blasting the company this week for lobbying against defining and standardizing carbon offsets for proposed cap-and-trade programs. In light of Wal-Mart’s public green campaign, critics are calling the company a hypocrite for making such a move, writes Maura Judkis of Fresh Greens blog.

In a comment (PDF) filed as part of the FTC’s Green Guide workshops, Wal-Mart tells the commission to resist defining  offsets or Renewable Energy Certificates because “doing so would require the Commission to resolve highly technical environmental debates that are beyond its expertise.”

Instead, Wal-Mart recommends the Commission to “rely on the flexibility inherent in the ‘reasonable basis doctrine.’ The fact that standards may differ from one seller to another simply reflects the fact that there is no consensus about what does, or should, constitute a carbon offset.”

Grist explains that the decision could “most affect the retailer’s ultra-ambitious goal to someday run on 100 percent renewable energy-a huge amount of which would likely have to come from offsets or renewable-energy certificates.”

In response to a question from blogger Eoin O’Carroll of the Christian Science Monitor’s asking why the company didn’t support a strong definition, Wal-Mart replied in a statement: “Wal-Mart believes that a well-designed cap-and-trade system will foster competition, innovation, and business-to-business and business-to-consumer transactions.”

Some readers of Judkis blog agreed with Wal-Mart that companies should be given the flexibility to define offsets and that companies should be commended not punished for their green efforts:

Businesses are best suited to determine how and when they should be able to reduce their so-called ‘carbon footprint’. Arbitrarily setting a cap and then telling businesses to meet that cap or pay a tax is a very ineffective and inefficient way of reducing greenhouse gases.

Another wrote that “As long as businesses are at least doing something to conserve, they do not need to be penalized.”

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