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Wal-Mart reaches beyond low-hanging fruit

I’m a bit late to this story, but a few weeks ago Wal-Mart pledged to cut 20 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from their supply chain by 2015. Catalyzing steps like this make it a lot harder for me, as a full-fledged environmentalist, to hate on Wal-Mart, though there are others who are doing so.

The greenhouse gases embodied within Wal-Mart’s products greatly outweigh the energy use associated with the stores themselves. Tackling the carbon intensity of the predominant part of a product’s lifecycle, its creation and delivery to retail stores, represents a crucial shift in thinking about how sustainability could be achieved through the framework of Wal-Mart’s incredibly large business.

Partnering with the Environmental Defense Fund, Wal-Mart is voluntarily taking on the enormous task of reducing greenhouse gases down the supply-chain. What I really like about the goal is that an independent educational research organization will devise the methodologies to make reductions, Wal-Mart will implement them, a third party will analyze the numbers, and a major accounting firm will verify that all procedures were followed consistently to guarantee reductions actually occurred. This is an awful lot like how carbon offsets are created in a high-quality voluntary market, and gives me a lot of confidence that these reductions are real.

It can be easy to dismiss Wal-Mart’s sustainability initiatives as window dressing, but the effects of achieving this goal would be tremendous. Because of its market share, even those who refrain from buying at Wal-Mart will likely see lower carbon-intensity products at other retailers, which is unquestionably a good thing. I’m impressed by Wal-Mart for looking past efficient lighting fixtures in their stores to the products that light falls on.

Take the first step.

Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.

For businesses, our Corporate Sustainability Plans can help you with your emission reduction goals.

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