Friday, January 25, 2008

Giving Credit Where it is Due

Can a leopard change its' spots?

Wal-Mart Chief Offers a Social Manifesto
Published: January 24, 2008

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wal-Mart pledged Wednesday to cut the energy used by many of its products 25 percent, to force the chain’s suppliers to meet stricter ethical standards and to apply its legendary cost-cutting skills to help other companies deliver health care for their employees.
In a lofty address that at times resembled a campaign speech, the chief executive of Wal-Mart Stores, H. Lee Scott Jr., said that “we live in a time when people are losing confidence in the ability of government to solve problems.” But Wal-Mart, he said, “does not wait for someone else to solve problems.”

He then laid out sweeping plans for the company on several health and environmental issues, and he hinted that even more ambitious goals might be on the horizon. Mr. Scott said, for instance, that Wal-Mart is talking to leaders of the automobile industry about selling electric or hybrid cars — and might even install windmills in its parking lots so customers could recharge their cars with renewable electricity.

With the new commitments, Wal-Mart is trying to cement its reputation as a leader in areas where it was once known as a laggard. The initiatives are the most visible sign to date that Wal-Mart, which spent much of the past decade defending itself against criticism of its business practices, has gone on the offensive.

Since 2005, it has committed itself to a dizzying number of reforms, and even some of the chain’s critics concede that it has begun to make good on the promises. For instance, Mr. Scott said Wednesday that Wal-Mart had sold 145 million compact fluorescent light bulbs, which he said had saved enough electricity to forestall the need for three coal-fired power plants in the United States.
Several experts applauded the new goals, saying they would have an impact beyond Wal-Mart, given the chain’s influence over companies that supply Wal-Mart and other retailers. “When Wal-Mart asks, suppliers jump,” said Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “There are positive ripple effects throughout the supply chain.”

No comments: