Walmart's Sustainability Gambit
by satyr9us, Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 08:15:29 AM EDT
Wal-Mart holds a Wall St. analyst's meeting every October---right before Halloween---to announce its growth projection plans for the year. Wal-Mart opponents applauded the company's announcement this week that it would continue to slow down the production of new stores.
Even the Bentonville Behemoth's cheering section, aka the Murdoch Street Journal, notes this trend in financial-speak:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) sees fiscal-year capital spending at the low end of its reduced expectations and said such expenditures might not increase next year. The retail giant continues to ratchet back its once-breakneck growth and focus on nurturing existing stores.
For context, consider Alex Pasternack's TreeHugger analysis of another big meeting the Walmart leadership recently held-- the "sustainability summit" in Beijing, China:
Near the end of Wal-Mart's 2008 Sustainability Summit in Beijing, CEO Lee Scott addressed one of the greatest existential questions for the world's biggest retailer as it pursues its sustainability goals: Can true sustainability be reached without lowering -- lowering -- consumption, especially with the increasing growth of China's middle class?
We're begging all kinds of questions here.
What do we mean when we say "sustainability"? Do we refer to the outlook that prioritizes considerations about the environment, and about the well-being of communities and the workforce?
What does Walmart mean when it says "sustainability"? Does it refer to the outlook that Walmart has got to keep growing, and growing, ever mindful of the need to find new communities to devour?
Let's ask their CEO:
Scott paused for a moment, and then:Do we change how we purchase, how we consume, how we live? The answer to that I think is that to get to true sustainability, that does occur.
Well, shucks-- you're talking a pretty good game, there, Lee.
But ask a question about profit margins, and wait for the truth serum to kick in:
If you think about sustainability only from the standpoint of adding costs and adding a layer of difficulty to business then I understand why people would have that question," he said. . . . I'm not the least bit concerned that Chinese factories are going to be put out of business because of sustainability...
Or to really distill it all into one neat little soundbite, go all the way back to March of this year, to comments Mr. Scott made before what he thought was a closed audience:
We are not green.
- Walmart is not green.
- Walmart is confronting certain PR realities by using words like "green" and "sustainability" as buzzwords-- they sound good, so they protect the bottom line.
- Walmart is still abusing the American workforce, abusing the American economy, abusing the Chinese economy, abusing the environment-- wrecking the world.
I work with Wakeup Walmart; we're doing everything we can to bring Walmart to the realization that it's time to put its money where its mouth is-- to treat the American workforce and the American consumer with respect, and to play its rightful role as the world's largest retailer by truly caring for the environment. Not as a public relations gambit, but as an honest driving initiative.
Won't you join us?
(Also posted at Daily Kos)