New York — Lee Scott will retire as CEO of Wal-Mart on February 1, and what a legacy he leaves. Sales up 2.4 times, on a $167 billion dollar company. Inventory days down 23% to 34. Receivable days as close to zero as you can get, and payables never higher than a manageable 39 days.
Yesterday Wal-Mart's CEO Lee Scott presented a speech to over 7,000 store managers. Surprisingly, the focus of his speech was Wal-Mart's devotion to sustainability. Scott cited the store's selling over 145 million compact fluorescent lightbulbs, and stressed the company's mission of continuing its pursuits toward energy efficiency. He also announced that the retail giant would work with suppliers to make its more power-hungry products 25 percent more energy-efficient over the next three years.
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?
Last fall, addressing a conference of American magazine editors in Puerto Rico, Scott finished his speech with a little story. He said Wal-Mart staff members who travel on business for the company -- literally thousands are on the road all week, Monday to Thursday -- are asked to take the pens from their hotel rooms and bring them back to the home office, to use as office supplies.