When we launched our new sustainability blog earlier this week, we committed to a vibrant conversation about helping people around the world live better. We asked for your thoughts and ideas, and you are delivering!
You can see reader posts, as well as The Green Room’s responses. I’d like to directly answer feedback from Andrew Revkin, who tweeted an excellent question: “Can a company selling consumption so hard also sell sustainability?” Andy also linked to the blog Dot Earth where he asks: “Can we have it all? Can we have cheap shirts and disposable batteries in a world heading toward 9 billion people seeking a decent life?”
His questions were echoed by Matthew McDermott, in a TreeHugger piece Wednesday. He asks: “Should Walmart even exist; can its business model be ever made compatible with a growing human population and decreasing resources?”
I’ve been asked that question many times, and I truly believe that everyone – individuals, NGOS, businesses, governments – absolutely everyone must step up and be responsible for the caretaking of our planet. That includes corporations, and as the world’s largest retailer, we have a unique ability and responsibility to make a difference.
We can use our size and scale to lead change on a global scale. With more than 100,000 suppliers, our decisions to use only sustainable palm oil in private-label products or source beef that has not contributed to deforestation in Brazil creates a ripple effect and others follow. It also results in change that makes its way into shopping carts and homes around the world.
People will always need food, clothing and other necessities, but if we can provide healthier, more sustainable options at prices everyone can afford, then we should. We must.
One example of how this works: we know that LED lighting uses less energy, produces less heat and lasts longer, so we helped develop the technology for use in our freezer cases. Now it’s almost impossible to find a refrigerated case anywhere not lit by LEDs. We worked with the EPA and other retailers to create the specs for LED lighting in parking lots, which are now standard in a number of our global operations including Mexico and Central America. Most recently we expanded LEDs to our sales floors, and other companies are following Walmart’s lead and integrating LED lighting to achieve similar savings and efficiency.
We are rolling out changes all across our company, and eliminating products and processes that are not sustainable. And we want to do that in partnership with others, including our critics.
Marc Gunther recently took a close look at our sustainability history and urged Walmart to be accountable and to speak more forcefully and openly about sustainability. I ask the same of you. Hold us accountable, talk with us and please, let’s continue this work and conversation.