Sustainability has mostly been a public relations campaign for Walmart. The company has written hundreds of press releases and thousands of blog posts, but made little actual progress in reducing the environmental impact of their products.[1]

 
Falling Behind on Green Energy
Walmart claims the company is working to reduce greenhouse emissions, but only four percent of Walmart’s energy is generated from its wind power purchases and solar installations.[2] Many other retailers are much further along. Some, like Kohl’s and Staples, get all of their electricity from renewable sources.  Others, like McDonald’s (30 percent) and Starbucks (70 percent), are way ahead of Walmart.[3]

 
Increasing Greenhouse Gases
Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions are growing, not shrinking. Between 2005 and 2011, its global climate change emissions grew from 18.9 to 21.5 million metric tons. Walmart has indicated that it plans to increase the amount of climate change pollution its pumping into the atmosphere over the next decade.[4]

When Walmart reports these emissions, it only counts some of the climate pollution it generates.  It doesn’t, for example, include the pollution from ocean shipping, which is a significant and rapidly growing source of climate pollution. Nor does Walmart account for the pollution created by clearing land for development and building stores.[5]

 
Greenwashing
Walmart’s much ballyhooed “Sustainability Index” has made almost no progress. At the end of 2011, the Sustainability Consortium, which Walmart funded to evaluate the environmental impact of every item it sells, had assessed only 10 types of products. The average Walmart Supercenter sells roughly 140,000 items.[6]

Walmart completely abandoned another sustainability goal this year. In 2007, the company set an “aspirational goal” of becoming packaging neutral by 2025.[7] Now, after reducing packaging by 5%, the company has declared the goal “not met” and has given up completely, retiring the goal in 2013.[8]

 
Agricultural sustainability
Walmart’s growth as a grocer—it now captures 25% of U.S. food sales—corresponded with a wave of mergers among meatpackers, dairies, and other food processors. With fewer retailers and processors to compete for their output, farmers have seen their share of the food dollar shrink. Between 1990 and 2009, the farmers’ share of each dollar consumers spent on pork, for example, fell from 45 to 25 cents, while the share going to Walmart and other retailers rose from 45 to 61 cents.[9]

 
Generating More Trash for Landfi­lls

Many retailers are selling lower-quality goods than they used to, in large part thanks to Walmart, whose relentless drive to cut costs has pushed suppliers to make cheap goods that must be replaced more frequently. Likely due to the Walmart in­fluence on apparel manufacturing, Americans are throwing away 83 pounds of textiles, mostly old clothing, each year—four times as much as they did in the 1980s. This system is a win-win for Walmart; consumers attracted by low prices will buy cheap goods, and will have to come shop again for replacements when the original items break or wear out.[10]

KeystonedonationsSupporting politicians who hurt the environment

Walmart and the Walton family finance politicians who fight action to address the climate crisis, including funding the campaigns of some of the most powerful climate change deniers in Congress. Between 2005 and 2012, Walmart and the Waltons gave $2.1 million, more than half of their total Congressional campaign donations, to members of Congress with lifetime scores of 30 or less on the League of Conservation Voters scorecard.[11] Among members of Congress voting on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline in 2012, 69% of contributions from the Walmart PAC and 88% from the Walton family from 2011-2012 went to lawmakers who voted in favor of the Pipeline compared with only 60% who voted for it.[12] In June 2012, Walmart chair Rob Walton gave $10,000 to a super PAC running ads criticizing Rep. Jeff Flake’s (R-AZ) vote against the pipeline.[13]

 


[1] http://grist.org/series/2011-11-07-walmart-greenwash-retail-giant-still-unsustainable/

[2] Walmart’s 2013 Global Responsibility Report. Available online: http://corporate.walmart.com/microsites/global-responsibility-report-2013/pdf/Walmart_GRR.pdf

[3] EPA’s Green Power Partners program, http://www.epa.gov/greenpower/partners/#R

[4] CDP 2012 Information Request – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

[5] CDP 2012 Information Request – Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

[6] http://grist.org/business-technology/2011-11-21-walmart-promised-green-product-rankings-fall-off-radar/

[7] http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/04/walmart-2013-global-responsibility-report-released/

[8] http://corporate.walmart.com/microsites/global-responsibility-report-2013/pdf/Walmart_GRR.pdf

[9] “Ending Walmart’s Rural Stranglehold,” United Food and Commercial Workers. Available online: http://grist.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/ag_consolidation_white_paper2.pdf?CFID=10082208&CFTOKEN=55376804

[10] http://grist.org/business-technology/2011-11-11-is-your-stuff-falling-apart-thank-walmart/

[11] http://scorecard.lcv.org/sites/scorecard.lcv.org/files/LCV_Scorecard_2012.pdf

[12] Analysis of contribution data from the Center of Responsive Politics, opensecrets.org, with voting records from the Congressional record.

[13] http://walmart1percent.org/2012/07/20/rob-walton-secure-arizona/