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Green Supply Chain Expert Insight
By Dan Gilmore
Aug. 17, 2009

Green Supply Chain Comment: For Wal-Mart, Green Leadership has Multiple Benefits


From Corporate Whipping Boy to White House A-List

A funny thing happened on the way to Green-ness for Wal-Mart: it is suddenly not so hated anymore.

For at least a decade, Wal-Mart has been unquestionably the favorite corporate target for a variety of consumer groups, unions, and those generally on the left-hand side of the political spectrum.

It has been raked over the coals in those circles for many years, battling charges of ruining local businesses, poor treatment of workers, being against cargo security (in a ridiculous series of TV ads), etc. Of course, the unions have been unsuccessfully targeting Wal-Mart for organization for many years.

As recently as the 2004 elections, many politicians, including current Vice President Joe Biden, cited Wal-Mart as an example of what was wrong with corporate America. Today, however, Wal-Mart is not only largely off the black list, but even moving to the A-list in some liberal circles – largely due to its Sustainability efforts.

"In the past four years, Wal-Mart Stores has undergone a stunning metamorphosis - from whipping boy of the political left to corporate leviathan now welcomed with open arms by a Deomocratic White House," the Wall Street Journal wrote in July.

It appears that Wal-Mart is saving some real money with its first wave of internal Green supply chain efforts (better fleet utilization, new milk cartons, etc.). However, its push to drive Green practices back through the supply chain, such as with its recently announced Green scorecarding program, not only will undoubtedly have a big impact on developing Greener Supply Chains, but will also continue to extend Wal-Mart’s perceived corporate leadership on all things Green.

Was this part of the strategy all along? Who knows. My guess, and its nothing but that, is that the PR and reputation benefits of going Green had to have been recognized, and perhaps served to push the effort along a bit for a company justifiably tired of being a punching bag for so many groups.

Wal-Mart – a “cool” company for the environmentalists. Who would have predicted that 10 years ago? The unions are still waiting in the wings, but the company now has friends in high places, at least in part.

Don’t think other CEOs aren’t watching.

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Dan Gilmore is Editor of Supply Chain Digest and The Green Supply
Gilmore Says:

Wal-Mart – a “cool” company for the environmen-talists. Who would have predicted that 10 years ago?