Greens Showing Some Love to Wal Mart

There’s an interesting piece in the LA Times today on Wal Mart’s move to incorporate environmental and energy-efficiency initiatives into its business model. Certainly, they are poised to be a corporate pioneer in this field, which is a huge positive for those of us that appreciate private sector environmental innovation. But I get a real kick out of the cognitive dissonance an article like this must produce among the “Wal Mart is evil” crowd, particularly when Wal Mart gets props from none other than the Sierra Club and CERES.

Wind turbines, rows of tall windows, a 200-foot-long dimpled-metal wall and shiny rooftop solar panels are just hints of what’s to come. Here, next to a busy freeway in suburban Denver, is tomorrow’s Wal-Mart today. And it’s getting a lot of attention. For the last year, this experimental Wal-Mart Supercenter has been testing ways to be more environmentally sensitive in everything it does. What works here won’t stay in Aurora. The world’s largest retailer wants ideas it can use in all of its more than 6,600 stores around the globe. . . . . Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts, unlike some of its other initiatives, also have won the company something more elusive: approval from critics and others not predisposed to Wal-Mart fandom. A recent New York gala dinner hosted by movie producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein honored Wal-Mart Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. for “his commitment to environmental sustainability.” Co-hosts included talk-show star Charlie Rose, NBC Universal CEO Bob Wright, MTV creator Robert Pittman and investment banker Steven Rattner. . . . . Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, declined to work with Wal-Mart on environmental matters because the company wouldn’t agree also to talk about labor, healthcare and other issues. Nonetheless, Pope said that after examining Wal-Mart’s initiatives, he was convinced the company was making a sincere and significant commitment, even if he was skeptical that some goals could be reached. “None of this is ‘greenstanding,’ ” said Pope, who also serves on Wal-Mart Watch’s board. “Their metrics are impressive; they’re not modest. “They deserve the chance to show that their business model is compatible with high standards, not just low prices.”