Is Wal-Mart for real?

In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. "pledged to transform Wal-Mart ... into a company that runs entirely on renewable energy and produces zero net waste." I was dubious of the news then and frankly still am, but maybe I shouldn't be so cynical.

David Roberts writes ("Wal-Mart's Green Makeover"):
It's too early to tell for sure, but Wal-Mart's environmental initiatives do appear substantive. Scott's commitments go well beyond what would be necessary for a successful greenwashing campaign. (Hell, BP pulled one of those off with little more than a name change.)

The holy trinity of genuine business transformation is: 1) public goals and timetables, 2) buy-in at every level of the company, and c) transparent reporting.

Wal-Mart has hit two of the three: Scott announced specific goals, and by all accounts Wal-Mart associates are invigorated by the challenge and the sense of moral mission.

As for transparent reporting, time will tell, but with all the scrutiny the announcements have drawn, it would be extraordinarily difficult to back out quietly. The company has already set up more than a dozen "sustainable value networks," each focused on a particular area like packaging or facilities, each made up of Wal-Mart managers and outside educators, regulators, and environmentalists. A lot of people are involved who wouldn't hesitate to call foul if Wal-Mart stalled or backed out.

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