Environment Forum

Walmart accused of hypocrisy in green initiatives



Just last month, Walmart announced that it would be moving to eliminate non-biodegradable plastic bags from stores across the United States to reduce their collection in landfills. While they’ve demonstrated positive green initiatives, this week there’s been accusations of hypocrisy because they’ve been passing off a harmful, manufactured textile as sustainable.

Environmental advocates had been applauding Walmart for their plastic bag reduction goals and the installation of more energy-efficient systems. For example, coolers that only light up when a shopper’s presence is detected. So this new accusation from the Federal Trade Commission comes at a bad time.

Walmart, along with many other big box and chain stores across the United States, has been selling products as bamboo that are actually rayon. It is a textile shrouded in debate, because it contains cellulose that is naturally occurring. However, it does require an extensive manufacturing process to produce.

Regardless of whether rayon is natural or not; it’s definitely not bamboo. This labelling misleads consumers who think that they’re purchasing clothing and other home goods made from one of the most sustainable materials on the planet.

As we’ve seen a lot lately, proper regulation and disclosure is a common issue when it comes to things labelled green.

from The Great Debate:

For real results on climate, look beyond Copenhagen

-- Aron Cramer is the president and CEO of BSR, a global business network and consultancy focused on sustainability. He is also coauthor of the forthcoming book Sustainable Excellence (Rodale 2010). The views expressed are his own.  --

(Updated on December 17th to correct figure in McKinsey study in paragraph 7.)

As world leaders seem uncertain about whether a binding treaty is even possible at Copenhagen, it’s important to remember what was already clear: Twelve days in Copenhagen were never going to solve climate change anyway.

No doubt, these negotiations, now extending into 2010, are crucial. The sooner we can seal a global deal to reduce emissions, the sooner we can avoid catastrophic climate change. But as important as the treaty negotiations in Copenhagen’s Bella Centre are, even a successful outcome will be for naught if boardroom decisions and factory processes aren’t reoriented toward a low-carbon future.

from Shop Talk:

The greening of Wal-Mart

walmartsustainable Wal-Mart, which helped promote the adoption of those funny-looking "green" lightbulbs, is making more room in its Sam's Club warehouse stores for environmentally friendly products -- including a water-saving toilet that has one button for flushing liquids and another for flushing solids.

Employees at a Sam's Club in the discounter's home town in Bentonville, Arkansas, have emptied shelves of things like power tools to make way for a variety of green products. Similar efforts have taken place in Sam's Clubs across the United States.

"Our members need and are looking for things that will help them mitigate their energy bills," said Joel Heiligenthal, buyer of home efficiency products at the club store chain.

Saving the planet (and money), one squirt at a time

ahec_bottle_line.jpgPlastic packaging has long been the bane of environmentalists, who see petroleum-based beverage bottles and shopping bags piling up in landfills as one of the biggest symbols of a wasteful society.

That bad rap for plastic (not to mention soaring prices on the materials that go into making it) has sent consumer products companies scrambling to trim down package sizes and create less waste. We’ve already seen concentrated laundry detergent in smaller bottles, and even Wal-Mart is cutting back on plastic shopping bags.

In the lastest “less is more” packaging change, Arm & Hammer has launched a line of refillable household cleaners with the brand name Essentials.  A starter kit — which looks and costs about the same as a regular bottle of glass or multi-surface cleaner — includes an empty spray bottle and a cartridge of concentrate that is mixed with tap water. When the cleaner is runs out, all you have to do is buy another cartridge of the plant-based concentrate.

Wal-Mart kept NGO partnerships on the DL

leescott1.jpgWhen Wal-Mart decided it needed an environmental strategy, it asked for help from some of its biggest critics.

The only thing is, the non-governmental organizations it looked to for advice on building a sustainable business didn’t want to ruin their green cred — or jeopardize their relationships with their donors — by admitting that they were working with Wal-Mart.

“We had to guarantee them that we would not ever tell anybody that they were there,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott said during an appearance at the Wall Street Journal ECO:nomics conference in Goleta, California.