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Walmart: Green Makeover or Greenwash?

A Walmart green makeover has been in the news lately.  I was frankly unaware of the depth of the commitment the company is making until I sat down with some articles appearing this week.  Apparently, CEO Lee Scott has taken green to heart and intends to drive it throughout the company.  Is this for real?  You decide: here are documents for July 27 NCS.

Other items of interest, time permitting, are the booming private equity business, Texas now leading the nation in wind energy produced, mercury levels in songbirds, the Texas utility TXU and how it wants to build more coal plants in our state - a LOT more, one man's argument in favor of nuclear power, a new book on the Iraq Fiasco, men and their foolish investment decisions, and a Harvard psychologist on why we humans engage in tit-for-tat.

LISTEN: New Capital Show (July 27, 2006)

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Reader Comments (11)

I have been listening for most of the morning, and to be honest I was a little discouraged about the response from the callers. I am the last person to shop at Wal-Mart, and I feel most of their business dealings are shady, at best. While their move toward more green business dealings may be nothing more than a ploy, I think we should not be so quick to judge. We should be critical; it's our job as the public to scrutinize. This doesn't mean we should all go out and start buying our fish from a super-center, but the only way to get more businesses to make environmentally responsible moves is to support them when they show interest. It does no good for us to be so quick to bash them, as it may only serve as an excuse to drop the whole idea with the mentality that the public doesn't support them.

I think we should be critical and not assume this is some great move on their behalf, but instead of discounting them we should support what efforts they are making. Then when they slide we can hold them accountable. Let's use this as leverage to say to them "you said you would be more green, why are you doing X?" It may be a spring board for them being more socially responsible. (Well, as socially responsible that a big-box company can be...) They will never be a small business, and they aren't going away. As long as they are here we may as well make them the least damaging.
Jul 27 | Unregistered CommenterHerSoul
I'm with HerSoul. What's the alternative? We should reward good behavior, and punish bad behavior. If WalMart is making a turn, and follows up pledges with results, I'll give them a chance. It doesn't matter to me whether they got there kicking and screaming against their will, or came to their senses. What matters is action.
Jul 27 | Registered CommenterLEO GOLD
regarding all the blah blah blah about WalMart going green - yeah right!
Remember, WalMart also advertises itself as offering products "Made in the USA" - turns out that virtually ALL of their "made in the USA" merchandise is actually made in sweat shops in southeast Asia by practically slave labor.
I don't believe a single word that WalMart says.
"Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...won't get fooled again."
Jul 27 | Unregistered CommenterRandy Scott
today's show: hung up after waiting because a woman made one major point i was waiting to make: it's wonderful if walmart actually takes a "green step" whatever that may be, BUT until walmart treats it's employees IN ALL COUNTRIES not just here, with respect, decent wages, healthcare (something over 50% of it's employees here are on food stamps & medicaid!!!) & does not represent one of the largest employers of the working poor (which means a person can work more than a 40 hr. week and not be able to support a small family without government aid) i will still not shop there....

AND a thought: IF walmart is currently the largest buyer of organic milk (is this "horizon"?), what does this say about the organic milk production business? that, what used to be smallish dairy farms, most of which treated their cows decently, has now grown to probably resemble the larger abusive industry.... and will only get worse, because i cannot believe that walmart cares how animals are treated... so although this seems like a good thing for us & a good thing for walmart's finances, there is a pernicious underlayer...
Jul 27 | Unregistered Commenterpearlmolly
Unfortunately, you have to wade thru 2/3 of the long boring narrative about Yucca Mountain before you get to anything meaningful, but this was rather intriguing. In all of my attempts to learn about Thorium reactors, I had not previously seen anything about the "other" fuel potential for plutonium aside from those breeder reactors. Also unfortunate is that this author doesn't go into any detail about the processes involved in using the plutonium as a fuel (an automatic red-flag for skeptics) - i.e. he doesn't say whether he's talking about using it in a breeder reactor or "recycling" in a conventional reactor.

It's also worth pointing out that France seems to get away with doing things that Americans cannot or don't want to do and we have to think about why this may be. Personally, I'm inclined to think that, as an allegedly or nominally "socialist" society, France seems to actually give a damn about doing things right, as opposed to the American way which includes allowing the nuke industry to focus on short-term gains and disregard safety.

Notice that the author says 98% is being recycled "IN OTHER PARTS OF THE WORLD" - I take that to mean that it is NOT being recycled here in the USA and this is another example of the inefficiency that comes from the focus on short term gains.
Jul 27 | Unregistered CommenterRandy Scott
I agree. They should do more. They should change in MANY areas. All I am saying is we should be glad this is a step in the right direction. It does NOT excuse their other injustices, by any means.

You are absolutely right. However, I didn't say I advocated everyone going out and buying Wal-Mart stock, or heck, even shopping there. I think we should take them seriously if only for the reason of holding them accountable. They may be full of junk. The more press they get, the harder they fail when they got back on their word...maybe...
Jul 27 | Unregistered CommenterHerSoul
These are important debates. Remember that the world is always changing. Change is the norm, not the unusual. None of us came to enlightened social consciousness immediately, and all of us have farther to go. Those who run Walmart are no different.
Jul 27 | Unregistered CommenterLEO GOLD
If Wal-mart really is "making over" thier company, well, kudos to them, I'll wait and see before I pass judgement.

Slightly off topic: One thing that I find peculiar though, is the fact that the same people that bash or hate Wal-mart or refuse to shop there, are the same people who say they really care about low income and poor immigrants , mainly those from Mexico. My job brings me in and out of these apartment communities, and neighborhoods. I see how they live. I also see that if it wasn't for Wal-mart and discount super stores, they probably wouldn't make ends meet. People on a tight budget don't care about supposed "slave labor" in China and goods that aren't made in America or goods made in an eco-friendly way. They care about feeding thier kids. They can't afford to shop at Whole Foods and sip gourmet coffee at a trendy shop in Montrose.

I'm not defending Wal-mart, but in the big picture, they are providing a service to a group of people.

For the record, I am not a republican, or democrat for that matter. Thanks for your time.
Jul 30 | Unregistered CommenterScott
I went to great lengths to avoid military service during the Vietnam war. As the years past and I matured (maybe), I began to think if I had done the right thing. At 40 years old I went back to college and had the opportunity to take a histroy class at U of H that dealt specificaaly with 1968 to 1972 and we studied closely that war. I do not regret resisting that war and to this day am convinced that war is not good. Thank you Pacifica for bringing many views to light.
Aug 3 | Unregistered CommenterBill
Is Walmart for real? No. The best you can hope for is they are doing the Right? thing for the wrong reason. Just my opinion.

On the issue of coal fired power plants you mentioned that they should make coal gasifican power plants, capture the carbon emissions and pump them into the ground. This may sound like a solution but I would equate it to sweeping the dirt (carbon) under the carpet. A problem not addressed is say you pump a large quantity underground and then it escapes (by accident or even on purpose). The gas is invisible so you would never know which means that any people in the area or even comes into the area would suffocate. Also say if the amount of carbon that escapes is double or even triple the amount that is already in the atmosphere what would happen with global warming. I do not believe that this is a solution. That said now I am not totally against the Idea. The reason being is that the solution is not storing the stuff but reusing it (i.e. developing a cycle of use.). An example of this would be the algae bio-diesel idea. If we would develop an algae bio-diesel plant near the coal power plant they could use the carbon gas as a component for food for the plants since they consume carbon as a food source. Now if the coal power plant owns the algae power plant they would have not one revenue source but two (potentially doubling their profits), and if they join in conjunction with another company that produces the bio-diesel then both could share each others cost. This solution would be better because the bio-diesel plant would draw on the carbon gas and help to slowly eliminate the Green House Gas. Just my opinion.

Nuclear Power is not an answer to anything. My first point on this would be is that it is not renewable. It is mined out of the ground like coal. Once you use the fuel up then what will you use to replace that. I have looked for information on how much we have and I found in a National Geographic Magazine that we have about 50 years worth of uranium. If this figure is true then I would also suspect that say that this estimate is true only under current consumption rates and if we start building more plants we would run out much sooner.
Second: Uranium is unsafe from mine to storage for about 1000 years. For information on mining Uranium ask the host of People of Earth. At least some of the mines are on Native American Land and the government is trying to mine it again. From what she has reported mining uranium is very toxic and very destructive to the land and everyone in the area for miles. The chemical used to mine the material is toxic and since they come into contact with the uranium they are also radioactive.
Third: The Houston Chronicle (Saturday, July 22,2006, City&State section, Outlook, page B9) titled: New South Texas reactors: Build and risks will come. Their first point was MELTDOWN. "A reactor core and waste pools store massive amounts of highly toxic radioactivity. Any accident or act of sabotage can release these chemicals into the air and cause large casualties. Reactors around the world have experienced accidents with the 1986 Chernobyl being the most catastrophic." it also goes on saying that "Every Day release small amount of the radioactivity they produce into the atmosphere. This radioactivity takes the form of more than 100 Chemicals that are breathed and consumed in food and water by humans. These chemicals hare the body in varying ways. Strontium-90 attaches to bone and teeth, Cesium-137 distributes in soft tissues and Iodine-131 seeks out the thyroid gland.
Each of these chemicals injures and destroys cells once inside the body. All cause cancer, particularly in infants and children, who are most susceptible to radiation's toxic effects."
There have been two reactors built in the center of Matagorda County, population of 38,000 "for the last quarter century. All residents live within 15 miles of the plant.
Since the plants were built the county has experienced a 60% increase of infant death rates and a 33% increase in child death rates. The death rates for all cancers combined was 5% below the Texas average before they were built and now is 16% higher. Each year 200 residents are diagnosed with cancer and 90 die. at the end of the article they advise that for now a non-toxic form of electricity should be sought out.
Third: As far as the waste not being radioactive I have seen a report as well that they are now reusing the spent fuel rods to generate electricity. I believe that France is doing this. Reusing the spent fuel rods do not eliminate the radioactivity at all. What it dose is reduce the amount of time the waste stays radioactive to about 100 years. The person that wrote the article (I believe) ether lied or was miss-informed.
Forth: I still believe that the nuclear power plant will be nothing more that a front to make more nuclear bombs. There are two types of plants: one is used exclusively to produce electricity and the other produces materials to make bombs. It is now well known that the Bush Administration want to produce Nuclear Bunker Buster Bombs and they have proven that they would be willing to produce them in secret even if illegal. What better way to provide the Radioactive Material in secret than this. No one would ever know which would be produce in the plants. I do believe that they want to "replace" the aging stockpile that we have now. If you have a problem with this reason the I would like to ask you why is everybody so worked up over Iran building a Nuclear Power Plant then. Since there are two types of plants all you need to do is make sure that they only build one that produces electricity only. I suspect though that it is not the plant that is different but the way you refine the fuel.

re: Wal-Mart goes green and organic

Green and organic are good - on the face of it.

However, if Wal-Mart approaches this in its usual way, it will sell these products in its stores more cheaply than the smaller competition, quickly putting them out of business.

Thereafter, it will be able to set the price for buying the produce and milk from farmers, holding down wages for farm workers and placing them in the same positions as thousands of other Wal-Mart suppliers and employees, on subsistence wages with no benefits, or worse (forced convict labor in China).

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