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.
Also in his speech, Scott announced Walmart's continued exploration of ways to improve its healthcare policies and practices. Of note, he said, was that Wal-Mart employees with health insurance has risen to 93 percent. Now, Wal-Mart will also promote electronic prescriptions, to reduce costs by using less material and to decrease potentially-dangerous prescription errors.
Since the media backlash against Wal-Mart a few years ago, the company has strived to remake itself and its image by embracing sustainability. Scott's speech illustrates a continuum along this trajectory. But are will these moves be enough? While these are great attempts, the world's largest retailer won't be able to change minds until it takes a more dominate leadership position and becomes an agent of industry change.
Here are a few things Wal-Mart could do:
- Give huge incentives to suppliers that reduce packaging materials and embrace sustainable practices.
- Spotlight on the store's greenest products. And the company should stress that such practices will probably reduce cost, increase profit, and increase demand.
What do you think about Wal-Mart's recent sustainable practices? What do you think the company should do next?