In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott started talking about sustainable development. In September 2006, he agreed with Al Gore and stated that a conflict between the environment and the economy is unnecessary. Now, he's even hired green activist Adam Werbach to shepherd the plan. But there are still plenty of skeptics. Is Scott merely greenwashing -- using sustainability to promote his company's interests -- or has Wal-Mart really become a force for environmental good?

Initiative: To use 30 percent less energy in new stores and to make existing stores 20 percent more energy-efficient by 2013.

Footprint: Wal-Mart spent about $30 million retrofitting 500 stores with LED lighting, 350 with energy-saving HVAC systems, and 400 with more efficient refrigeration systems. If successful, this will cut annual electricity use by 3.5 million megawatt-hours.

Initiative: To open four high-efficiency stores this year that will use 20 percent less energy than typical Supercenters.

Footprint: Wal-Mart has already opened two high-efficiency Supercenters in Kansas City, Missouri and Rockton, Illinois. The restroom sinks use sensor-activated, low-flow faucets, reducing water flow by 84%.

Initiative: To purchase all of its wild-caught fish for the North American market from fisheries certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council within the next three to five years, and to purchase all shrimp from nonpolluting farms within the next 18 months.

Footprint: Certified fish farms that were struggling to compete with unregulated fisheries are now at an advantage with Wal-Mart on their side.

Initiative: To cut total packaging by 5 percent by 2013.

Footprint: Just as it has pressured its suppliers for cheaper, Wal-Mart is now pressuring for greener. By reducing the packaging of fewer than 300 toys, Wal-Mart saved 3,425 tons of corrugated materials, 1,358 barrels of oil, 5,190 trees, 727 shipping containers and $3.5 million in transportation costs in one year.

Initiative: To increase efficiency by 25 percent over the next three years and by 50 percent over the next ten.

Footprint: Wal-Mart determined it could save 60 million gallons of diesel fuel a year by installing auxiliary power units in its 7,200 trucks to keep drivers warm or cool during the mandatory ten-hour breaks from the road.

Initiative: To make GE's compact fluorescent light bulbs more affordable.

Footprint: If each customer who visited Wal-Mart in a week bought one long-lasting CF light bulb, that would reduce electric bills by $3 billion, conserve 50 billion tons of coal, and keep one billion incandescent light bulbs out of landfills over the life of the bulb.

Initiative: To preserve the recently purchased commercial forests in California.

Footprint: With a $1 million grant to the Pacific Forest Trust and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and a $7.3 million acquisition, Wal-Mart has purchased more than 9,000 acres of commercial forests, serving more than 250 species of wildlife and linking two million acres of protected lands.

Initiative: To buy organic cotton for five years, giving farmers a sure market for their crops.

Footprint: In 2006, Wal-Mart purchased approximately 6,800 metric tons of organic cotton, whereas six years ago the whole industry was struggling to sell even 6,400. The corporate giant has become its best, most reliable customer.

Initiative: To inform Wal-Mart employees about leading a sustainable personal life style.

Footprint: The Personal Sustainability Project developed by Werbach and his firm, Act Now, recruits volunteers to teach other coworkers about the benefits of personal sustainability. Every store sends weekly progress reports of its 1.3 million employees.

Wal-Mart: The New Green Giant?

In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott started talking about sustainable development. In September 2006, he agreed with Al Gore and stated that a conflict between the environment and the economy is unnecessary. Now, he's even hired green activist Adam Werbach to shepherd the plan. But there are still plenty of skeptics. Is Scott merely greenwashing -- using sustainability to promote his company's interests -- or has Wal-Mart really become a force for environmental good?

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