Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Wal-Mart Announces Green Initiatives

Wal-Mart's chief executive is set to announce on Tuesday a set of sweeping, specific environmental goals to reduce energy use in its stores, double its trucks' fuel efficiency, minimize its use of packaging and pressure thousands of companies in its worldwide supply chain to follow its lead.

His goals, he said, are to invest $500 million in technologies that will reduce greenhouse gases from stores and distribution centers by 20 percent over the next seven years; increase the fuel efficiency of the truck fleet by 25 percent over the next three years and double it within 10 years, and design a new store within four years that is at least 25 percent more energy-efficient.

The company's environmental initiative includes improving energy efficiency at its 1,876 supercenters, which now consume an average of 1.5 million kilowatts of electricity annually, according to Tara Stewart, a spokeswoman for the company.

Mr. Scott said that as the largest buyer of manufactured goods in the world, Wal-Mart has the power to encourage its more than 60,000 suppliers to adopt environmentally conscious business practices.
If they follow through with this, that is some major good news.

But just when you are starting to like Wal-Mart they go and prove that they really are still dicks:
An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

Text of Internal Wal-Mart Memo In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."
Jared Diamond's book Collapse points out how the oil companies had to clean up their act in order to be able to recruit the best and brightest out of colleges and grad schools. Likewise GE spends considerable effort in trying to recruit the cream of the crop and therefore need to make the company a place that young people are proud to work for. Hence college idealism actually impacts corporate behavior.

I have wondered if part of Wal-Mart's issues stems from the fact that they choose to promote from within rather than recruit from the nations best schools. Without the need to attract these students, they don't have to promote the larger social issues that are important to these students. So maybe the best way to get Wal-Mart to focus on these issues is not to attack them directly on it, but rather encourage them to hire more students from the top universities, which will get there in a round about way.

via NY Times 1 & 2

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