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Technology & Innovation

How Walmart Became a Catalyst for Change

Aron Cramer, CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, explains how Walmart has used its market power to become an agent of change and an industry leader in what he calls “sustainable excellence.”    

What’s the Big Idea?

As Aron Cramer, CEO of Business for Social Responsibility, explains, it wasn’t so long ago that Walmart was the company every pro-environmental advocate loved to hate. (These opposing forces aren’t exactly on a Honeymoon just yet. Walmart remains a powerful symbol for many of our wasteful culture of consumption by the nature of the products the company sells.) And yet, Walmart is also a key indicator of how much the political and economic calculus has changed over just the last decade or so, where businesses have found just how much the profit motive is aligned with the concerns of the Environmental movement. After all, waste is waste, and it no longer serves any company any good to be wasteful. The stakes are too high as the global economy transitions into a low-carbon economy.

What’s the Significance?

Never before, Cramer argues, have the demands of business and humanity’s responsibility to the environment been so closely aligned. N.B. Walmart has not, and does not claim that it is a green company. Indeed, to make such a claim would be a sure sign of so-called greenwashing. What Walmart does claim–and the company is demanding its many suppliers to follow suit–is that their business strategy is to dramatically reduce their overhead in terms of wasted energy costs. Turns out this is good for business, good for the environment, and Walmart has become a global leader in sustainable business practices. What a difference a decade makes!


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