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Four Ways Enviros can Keep Walmart in the Hot Seat

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Big Box Retailers page and our Politics and Democracy page.
Walmart's sustainability campaign is not your typical corporate greenwash. It is more complex and clever than that. It has enough substance mixed in with the spin to draw you in. It's easy to get swept up in the big numbers Walmart can roll out - like the 30 tons of plastic hangers it recycles every month - and to be charmed by the very fact of this giant company, with its hard-nosed corporate culture, using a word like "sustainability."

More than a few environmentalists have been won over. With their endorsements and the flood of positive press that seems to follow each of Walmart's green announcements, the company has managed to turn around flagging poll numbers, shift its labor practices out of the limelight, and, most crucially, crank up its expansion machine.

The environmental consequences of Walmart's ongoing growth far outweigh the modest reductions in resource use that the company has made. Walmart's business model and its future success depend on further accelerating the cycle of consumption, industrializing our food supply, and exacerbating sprawl. It's not just Walmart, but also Target, Home Depot, and other big chains. The big-box model is "efficient" only to the degree that many of its costs are borne by the planet and the public at large. As these retailers take over an ever-larger share of the economy, more sustainable enterprises and systems of production and distribution are squeezed out.