Walmart’s heavily-promoted sustainability initiatives have done more to improve the company’s image than to help the environment, according to research by the nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
Since Walmart unveiled its sustainability campaign in 2005, the number of Americans with an unfavorable view of the company has fallen by nearly half, but its greenhouse gas emissions are increasing rapidly, according to Walmart’s Greenwash.
The retail giant’s commitment to renewable energy is also called into question in the report. At its current pace, Walmart will need roughly 300 years to reach its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy, ILSR claims. As of 2011, Walmart was deriving only two percent of its U.S. electricity from its wind and solar projects, the report says.
Walmart’s Greenwash also criticizes the “little progress” the store has made towards its goal of developing the sustainability index for consumer products that it launched in 2009. The chain also regularly donates money to political candidates who “consistently vote against the environment,” according to ILSR.
Walmart responded to the report with a statement saying, in part, “Walmart is enthusiastically committed to our formidable goal of eliminating 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from our global supply chain by the end of 2015 and has taken the approach to generate as much positive impact as possible as quickly as possible. The Walmart team – in partnership with EDF, CDP and Clear Carbon by Deloitte – evaluate all projects in order to be able to go after the biggest, fastest, most economical tons first.”
The company says it has eliminated 88,000 tons of greenhouse gases and identified projects with the potential to eliminate an additional 16 million tons of GHGs, and created a way for suppliers to suggest GHG reduction projects.
The company’s 2011 Global Responsibility Report said that Walmart has made steady year-to-year improvement towards its goals of creating zero waste, using 100 percent renewable energy and selling products that sustain people and the environment. Overall, the company has met 15 of its sustainability commitments.
But the report also showed the company to be slightly behind on its target of a 20 percent cut in emissions from stores, clubs and distribution centers by 2012, from a 2005 baseline. By the end of 2009, Walmart had reduced its GHG emissions by 10.6 percent.
Walmart aims to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from its global supply chain by the end of 2015.
In a second statement, the company added, “Like anything that Walmart pursues related to sustainability, our goals are ambitious. We didn’t necessarily know how we would achieve them, but we believed then and we continue to believe now that it was the right thing to do for our business and the environment.
“As we continue on our sustainability journey we will continue to strive for transparency by releasing our annual Global Responsibility Report in April, providing progress updates on our goals.”
Walmart has previously said that its sustainability goals are more about making money than about its brand image.
“If we as a company focus on waste, we can make Walmart a better company and at the same time, become a better citizen,” Chairman Lee Scott said at a conference in April 2010. “What Walmart has done is approach this from a business standpoint.”