We have been listening to a presentation by Andy Ruben, Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Sustainability.
If you read this blog regularly, you know how I feel about the "sustainability" buzzword, so it caused me to flinch a bit when I heard that Wal-Mart had a Vice President with that in his job title.
Yesterday, we heard about "Green Stores" that Wal-Mart is prototyping in McKinney, TX and Aurora, CO. These stores have porous parking lots to reduce stormwater runoff, solar energy panels, recycling of cooking grease to heat the building, etc. Wal-Mart is installing energy efficient lighting in its distribution centers, etc.
Mr. Ruben concentrated his presentation on "sustainable" products such as energy efficient light bulbs, wild-caught seafood, organic foods and baby clothes and environmentally friendly laptops. He even mentioned greenhouse gas and climate change. Oh no.
One good thing that came out yesterday, in my opinion, was the fact that Wal-Mart has no plans to make their stores less "auto-centric." Duh. Can you imagine taking home a TV, barbecue, or lawnmower home on the bus on the back of your bike?
My admiration of Wal-Mart comes from the fact that it epitomizes the best of capitalism and the free market. I also see the benefits it brings to communities that it enters. I like Wal-Mart best when it is being politically incorrect and defiant of its critics. I would be bitterly disappointed if it caved into pressure from their leftist and union opponents who won't be happy until Wal-Mart is destroyed.
But in the spirit of learning new things at this conference, I have to admit that after a conversation I had at breakfast this morning, along with the various presentations, I can see that Wal-Mart's "green" approach is based more on efficiency, cost savings, and appealing to more upscale customers than an attempt to mollify critics. In other words, free market forces at work. That's a good thing.
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