Walmart: King of Greenwash

Written by Amanda Starbuck

Topics: Climate & Energy

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walmart_greenwash_frntThis week I have watched in horror as one of the most powerful storms ever recorded slammed into the Philippines.

Fueled by a warming ocean, Typhoon Haiyan has killed an estimated 10,000 people, while hundreds of thousands have been displaced. It’s a stark reminder that climate change is happening now, that we need to act urgently to stem the extreme impacts of global warming.

We need leadership from our politicians and a dramatic change in behavior from our biggest polluters.

So when companies like Walmart talk about their responsibility to act to address climate change, I absolutely agree. The stakes are already too high.

Walmart calls itself a leader in global environmental responsibility, but when you take a look at the real picture the halo quickly fades, as a new report out today from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reveals.

Since 2005 the company has invested millions to promote itself as an environmental champion. Perhaps you have seen their ads with wind turbines and sunshines, designed to illustrate a ‘green’ Walmart?

The harsh reality is that, far from reducing its global climate impact, Walmart’s pollution is on the rise. And dramatically so.

Walmart’s own reported climate emissions have grown 14% since the company launched its sustainability campaign in 2005. That step backwards is even after some selective reporting. Walmart chooses to ignore its biggest impacts, including the emissions in its supply chain and in its big-box retail store expansion.

In fact, if Walmart were included in the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, a list that is limited to heavy industry firms such as oil companies and power plants, Walmart would rank at #33, alongside Chevron.

But what about those wind turbines and sunshine-powered solar panels? In 2005, Walmart announced an aspirational goal to use 100% renewable energy. Back then this sounded ambitious. But fast forward to 2013 and there are competitor companies, like Whole Foods, Staples and Kohl’s, that are hitting this target and sourcing all of their electricity from renewable sources.

Meanwhile, Walmart? Seriously lagging the leaders at a miserly 4%, which is even less than Best Buy. In fact, Walmart’s use of renewable energy overall declined in 2012.

Behind all of Walmart’s slick greenwashing is a business model that is fundamentally unsustainable.

And that is why Rainforest Action Network supports Walmart workers’ efforts to reform this company and force it to start putting people ahead of its bottom line. From worker safety to global environmental responsibility, this company has a long way to go.

If you want to learn more, read this open letter from leading environmentalists calling for change at Walmart.

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