Friday, October 21, 2005

The Great, Great Wal-Mart Turnaround?

I must admit that I was pretty surprised when Wal-Mart announced it was experimenting with renewable energy at stores in Texas and Colorado, and was quick to assume greenwashing. Now, Joel Makower responds to a new announcement by Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott that the company "...was going to be paying a lot closer attention to the environmental and labor standards of its overseas supply chain." Joel remains skeptical (as well he should), but also notes at least one case of a Wal-Mart watcher claiming this is a sincere move by the company. Quite frankly, I can't see how Wal-Mart could adopt policies for sustainable sourcing without completely revamping its business plan, as their "falling prices" mantra depends on cheap overseas labor, primarily from China, and lax environmental regulation. But if they were to only make adjustments similar to those by Nike (another company that's faced similar pressure from activists), the repercussions would be enormous. I still don't plan to shop at Wal-Mart anytime soon, but I may have to consider moving from a position of total dismissal to one of slightly hopeful skepticism...

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