Download the PDF

What Wal-Mart says…

Walmart claims to be a leader in environmentally friendly business practices and widely publicizes its efforts:

Mother Jones Graphic CO2

Mother Jones Graphic CO2

  • “We are working to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions,” Walmart says, touting energy efficiency improvements to its trucks and stores, and renewable power purchases. [1]
  • “We have eliminated more than 80% of the waste that would go to landfills from our operations in California… and we reduced the plastic bag waste across our global operations by… 21%.” [2]
  • “We’ve made a global commitment to sustainable agriculture … and we are helping create a global Sustainability Index to evaluate the sustainability of the products we sell, providing customers with transparent information about the quality and history of those products.[3]

What Walmart does not say…

About energy and climate change:

  • Less than two percent of Walmart’s energy is generated from its wind power purchases and solar installations. Many other retailers are much further along; some are already using 100% renewable energy. [4]
  • Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions are growing, not shrinking.  In the U.S., Walmart’s reported emissions grew by roughly 7 percent between 2005 and 2009. In Asia, its green house gas emissions have doubled. The company expects 13 million metric tons of cumulative growth in emissions by 2015.[5]

About landfill waste:

  • Walmart’s reliance on cheaply made goods means that consumers now replace products much more frequently. As a result, U.S. shoppers are creating twice as much trash as they did twenty years ago, with much of it going to landfills.[6]

About the Sustainability Index:

  • Walmart’s much ballyhooed “Sustainability Index” has made almost no progress in its first three years.  The Sustainability Consortium, which Walmart funded to devise a system for evaluating products, has assessed only 10 types of products so far. The average Walmart Supercenter sells roughly 140,000 items.[7]

About its business model:

  •  “The big-box format that Wal-Mart pioneered has led to a sharp increase in the number of miles Americans drive for shopping…since Wal-Mart started expanding in the 1970s, the number of miles logged per household for shopping has grown more than 300 percent, while household driving overall has expanded 75 percent.”[8]

Bottom Line:

Sustainability has mostly been a public relations campaign for Walmart. The company has written hundreds of press releases and thousands of blog posts, but made little actual progress in reducing the environmental impact of their products.[9]

About agricultural sustainability:

  • Walmart’s growth as a grocer — it now captures 25% of U.S. food sales – triggered a wave of mergers among meatpackers, dairies, and other food processors.  With fewer retailers and processors to compete for their output, farmers have seen their share of the food dollar shrink. Between 1990 and 2009, the farmers’ share of each dollar consumers spent on pork, for example, fell from 45 to 25 cents, while the share going to Walmart and other retailers rose from 45 to 61 cents.



[1] http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability/7673.aspx  viewed 3/2/12

[2] “Walmart Sustainability Fact Sheet,” August 2011

[3] http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability/

[4] http://grist.org/series/2011-11-07-walmart-greenwash-retail-giant-still-unsustainable/

[5] http://grist.org/business-technology/2011-11-17-walmarts-progress-on-renewables-has-been-very-slow/

[6] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-mitchell/putting-wal-marts-green-m_b_487729.html

[7] http://grist.org/business-technology/2011-11-21-walmart-promised-green-product-rankings-fall-off-radar/

[8] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacy-mitchell/putting-wal-marts-green-m_b_487729.html

[9] http://grist.org/series/2011-11-07-walmart-greenwash-retail-giant-still-unsustainable/