Wal-Mart - Green or Greenwash?

by: Heather on 02/22/2008

Wal-Mart has received a lot of press lately for their "eco-initiatives" - promoting energy efficient products and organic foods and reducing electricity use in some of its stores. The company is engaged in a massive PR campaign to convince the public that they are leading the way in the green movement. Even the well known environmental blog Grist praises them for their ambitious vision.

Pardon me?

We recently found out that Wal-Mart will be exhibiting across the aisle from us at the upcoming Green Living Show in Vancouver. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't supporting the local economy one of the primary tenets of a green, sustainable lifestyle? Wal-Mart rolls into towns and flattens the local economies like a steamroller. Small businesses and mom-and-pop operations are bulldozed into oblivion. And no matter how many hundreds of thousands of energy efficient light bulbs Wal-Mart may install, they can never be considered a green company when most of the goods on their shelves are mass-produced in polluting factories on the other side of the planet and then shipped thousands of fossil-fuel burning miles.

Is there anything we can do when we see our green values co-opted in the way that Wal-Mart so clearly is? Can a green image really be bought, or does it need to be earned? What can we do to take back the movement from those who would use it solely for the purpose of padding their own bottom line?

One approach is to pressure corporate offenders into true accountability through brand leveraging, certification and and similar strategies. Check out Michael Conroy's Branded! to see that corporate responsibility doesn't have to be an oxymoron and that David really can slay Goliath, or at least make him behave more ethically and responsibly.

Branded

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