How Green is Wal-Mart?

In October 2005, Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott outlined audacious environmental and sustainability goals for the company. Here’s the status of some of the company’s major initiatives.


Energy-saving Stores

Goal: New stores to use 30% less energy; existing stores to reduce greenhouse-gas footprint by 20%.


Status: Wal-Mart opened two energy-saving stores in 2005 and plans four more this year–a fraction of its hundreds of new stores. But the company is installing motion-activated LED lighting in refrigerated cases in new stores and retrofitting 500 stores with LED lighting, 350 with energy-saving HVAC systems, and 400 with more-efficient refrigeration systems.

Caveat: Wal-Mart now says new stores will be “25% to 30%” more efficient by 2009. Scott’s original goal was 30%.

Sustainably Farmed Shrimp

Goal: All shrimp to come from nonpolluting farms, certified by an NGO, by mid-2007.

Status: The company says all processing facilities, but not all farms, adhere to third-party standards.

Caveat: Wal-Mart now says farms will be 100% certified in the next 18 months.


Reducing packaging

Goal: Cut total packaging by 5% by 2013.

Status: This initiative, announced only last summer, roiled packaging companies and Wal-Mart’s suppliers. As an indicator of its seriousness, in February Wal-Mart introduced a “packaging scorecard” to assess supplier progress on package reduction. This fall, Wal-Mart and three major laundry-detergent makers will roll out concentrated liquid detergents with half the packaging.

Caveat: The goal sounds modest, but achieving it is harder than it sounds.

About the author

Charles Fishman, an award-winning Fast Company contributor, is the author of One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon. His exclusive 50-part series, 50 Days to the Moon, will appear here between June 1 and July 20.