Green Guide for WalMart
Everyone knows Wal-Mart. With over 8900 stores, chances are you live within several miles of one of its supercenters.
Wal-Mart has opened several green stores and has a new improved design that sports a considerable environmental savings over its traditional design. Wal-Mart carries a large number of organic, natural, and ecologically responsible products on its shelves, and it has been steadily improving in this area each year. Wal-Mart is trying to reduce its carbon footprint in each store and is tracking and has developed an ecolabel to help give consumers more environmental information about the products they are buying. Wal-Mart has taken several steps to green its transportation fleet and has over 800 hybrid vehicles (about a fifth of its fleet). Finally, Wal-Mart has been making progress using more renewable energy and is now 8th on the EPA's list of Retailers using the most renewable energy. Its internal goal is to be powered from 100% renewable energy in the future.
Wal-Mart is pretty well rounded environmentally for a corporate retailer and the only area that we had any concern about was it had one of the higher emissions levels when normalized against revenue. Wal-Mart has been getting more efficient per unit of sale, but it is not clear why this number is considerably higher than other retailers. We hope to see Wal-Mart continue to improve as it has made steady progress over the past several years and seems well-poised to continue to be a leader in the corporate space environmentally.
Wal-Mart has another strong showing in our green retail guide. Wal-Mart has been making steady improvement, and we are eager to see what it continues to do to improve.
Even though we here at Greenopia are all about supporting local green businesses, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have to shop at a large national retailer. As you may imagine, there is a lot of variation in the environmental performance amongst the biggest retailers in the U.S., so we have scoured their sustainability reports, certifications, and other sources to collect information regarding their greenness.
One thing to point out is that the way we rate these companies (explained in more detail below) is not the same as our local business ratings. To put it simply, national chains would not be able to meet the rigorous criteria that we use to analyze smaller businesses (except a select few, who we already list). And, we also have to keep in mind that it is not realistic for us to assume a national chain can become green overnight. They have much more complicated supply chains and larger stores to deal with than smaller, local businesses. But, since chains have a larger overall impact, it is important that they become green and we want to support the chains that are going the extra mile.
Thus in the spirit of providing the best green information we can, we have awarded a leaf rating and description of some of largest retailers in the US showing if they are green and how they can improve. We have also created a scorecard with various icons showcasing the specific areas in which the corporations excel relative to the rest of the industry.
Our leaf awards are based on the following:
- Green Building Design
- Supply Chain
- Recycling/Take-Back Programs
- Sustainability Reporting
- Green Power
- Some Notable Environmental Initiatives or a Dedicated Light Green Brand.
- Solid Environmental Initiatives.
- A Very Strong Environmental Commitments.
- An Environmental Leader in this Industry.
Oftentimes a sustainability report is the only way for the general public to easily track down environmental information about large corporations. In reality, only a few companies take the time to publish sustainability reports every 1-2 years and even fewer publish reports of any true value. We scored companies based off how thorough their environmental reporting was. Also, for us to consider something a sustainability report, it had to be updated at least every 2 years, set clear environmental goals for the company, and track their progress over time in several environmental indicators. In order to receive this icon on their scorecard, a company had to meet 75% of the criteria in this category.
Green Building Design
There are a variety of things that companies are doing to green their buildings ranging from some minor improvements like using energy efficient light bulbs and/or fixtures to more dedicated efforts like building green stores, requiring that every new store meets LEED standards, or powering a large number of their stores with renewable energy. Companies were given points based off the green building design elements they were incorporating into their present and future stores. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.
Certain retailers have different standards for their vendors. Some just care whether or not the vendor is in basic environmental compliance, while others go as far as to work with vendors to redesign packaging or to only work with vendors who are have a stellar environmental track record. We know that refining a supply chain takes a lot of time and money so we wanted to promote the firms that are making this effort. Chains were rated by how much they have done to green their supply chain. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.
At this point, recycling things like office paper is trivial, almost everyone does it. But it is much rarer for stores to offer take-back programs for the products they sell that may contain hazardous inputs. And to those who claim that retailers shouldn't be the ones to carry this cost, don't forget that retailers profit off the sales of these items too and some have already taken the initiative to be responsible for these items (and don't worry, we hold manufacturers accountable for take-back in our product ratings as well). Companies were given points depending on how thorough and widespread their take-back efforts were. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.
It's important to note how many green products a company buys and sells. We gave companies points based off the percentage of green products that they carried. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category (This is not the same as saying 50% of their stock was green; we instead looked at how many green brands companies offered and if they were promoted in a special way).
Green Power - Did not Qualify
Companies have begun to utilize renewable energy in a variety of ways. On a small scale, some chains have solar panels on a few stores in favorable climates, others purchase offsets for their energy footprint, and others use renewable energy from local providers. In our mathematical ratings, this criterion was considered under the green building design category, but no scorecard icon was given.