A robust debate is occurring within the enviro community regarding the green epiphany of Wal-Mart, the second-largest corporation (after ExxonMobil) in the world in terms of revenue.

David Roberts at environmental hub Grist, wonderfully refers to Wal-Mart as “every green's favorite source of cognitive dissonance.” He has editorialized very thoughtfully on Wal-Mart's apparent conversion and is presiding over a running online dialogue on the pages of Grist that all enviros — and other nonprofit strategists — should follow and think about.

On the one hand, Environmental Defense (with whom I consult) has gone so far as to set up satellite offices in Benton, Arkansas to be on-the-scene at Wal-Mart headquarters, while WWF has ten staffers assigned to the Wal-Mart case. Their attitude — one I'd term “cautious engagement” — is typified by the comments of ED President Fred Krupp in this recent USA Today article:

“Wal-Mart has as much or more potential than any other company to change the way the world does business,” says Krupp. “And we intend to be right there.”

In his view, Wal-Mart is “off to a promising start” but will be judged by “the results of its efforts.”

BTW, this article provides an excellent overview of Wal-Mart's enviro initiatives, as well as the views of skeptics, like WakeUpWalMart:

“We don't know whether Wal-Mart's environmental changes are real or a Machiavellian attempt to green-wash a declining public image,” says Chris Kofinis, communications director. “But its long record of irresponsible behavior forces one to be skeptical.”

Many of the enviro activists commenting on Wal-Mart in Gristmill are much farther out on the hostility scale. These folks are emotionally, intellectually, philosophically, even spiritually anti-corporate. And Wal-Mart is their lightening rod.

How this high profile case of corporate conversion plays out has huge implications, and not just for the environment. Here's why …

Continue reading “Green, Greed, Greenwashing … Or Good?”

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