Friday, February 02, 2007
Wal-Mart Wants Suppliers, Workers to Join Green Effort
Wal-Mart Wants Suppliers,
Workers to Join Green Effort
February 2, 2007; Page A14
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Chief Executive Lee Scott called on the retailing giant's suppliers and employees to aid its green campaign, including a request that suppliers eventually eliminate nonrenewable energy from their processes and products.
For the past year the company has been expanding its environmental push even as its sales growth has waned and it has faced persistent criticism over its wages and health benefits. But Mr. Scott's remarks yesterday in London marked Wal-Mart's first formal call for suppliers to decrease their use of nonrenewable energy such as that generated by burning coal or gas. Wal-Mart pledges to eventually power its operations entirely with renewable energy sources such as wind and solar energy.
Mr. Scott issued the call while introducing a campaign he christened "Sustainability 360." In another aspect of the campaign, Wal-Mart will ask its 1.35 million U.S. employees this year to make commitments of their own, such as biking to work or encouraging friends to buy energy-efficient light bulbs.
Among the initiatives Mr. Scott outlined, prodding suppliers off nonrenewable energy could have the largest commercial ramifications. Wal-Mart, with an estimated $350 billion in sales last year, buys goods from more than 60,000 suppliers globally.
"Just think about this: What if we worked with our suppliers to take nonrenewable energy off our shelves and out of the lives of our customers?" Mr. Scott said, according to a transcript of the speech, at an executive seminar hosted by the University of Cambridge and Prince Charles.
Some suppliers, such as General Electric Co., already are working with Wal-Mart to promote products such as energy-efficient light bulbs. Osram Sylvania, a unit of Siemens AG, produces 30 types of energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulbs.
In another facet of the campaign, Wal-Mart will encourage its employees to adopt what it calls Personal Sustainability Projects this year. The program encourages Wal-Mart employees to embrace a cause in areas such as environmental sustainability or personal health, like starting an in-store recycling program or organizing weight-loss or smoking-cessation support groups.
Some Wal-Mart employees have yet to hear about the program. Ada McBride, a greeter at a Wal-Mart in Apopka, Fla., said she would like to see the retailer "focus on wages," but she anticipates the new initiative will be well-received by employees. It could be viewed favorably by conservation groups, too, especially if it gains widespread participation.
"While we are not familiar with the details of this effort, any program that can engage over a million people in working for a healthy and sustainable environment is good news," said Bob Perciasepe, chief operating officer of the National Audubon Society.
As it expands its green initiatives, Wal-Mart is struggling on another front: perpetuating its sales growth. The retailer in recent years has increasingly pushed into denser urban and suburban markets in the U.S. Subsequently, its same-store sales -- sales at stores open at least a year -- have steadily diminished. Those measures reached rare lows with a 0.5% gain in October and a 0.1% decline in November. Wal-Mart anticipates reporting a gain of 1% to 2% for January.
Write to Kris Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.orgWall Street Journal, 2 Feb. 2007
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