Posted by: nickgerlich | September 30, 2007

Green Genes

It has been a very wet year in Texas. I’ve been mowing since March, and everything is still green. Which means I’ve been sneezing virtually non-stop for over 6 months now. I’m ready to see some brown for a while.

Ironically, maybe all this rain is influencing Wal-Mart as well, for suddenly they are becoming the Big Green Company. The retailing giant recently launched a new green initiative that is drawing the attention of everyone.

Wal-Mart WindmillNaturally, Wal-Mart critics are a little skeptical, saying that these efforts are mere window dressing intended to keep the naysayers at bay. After all, Wal-Mart is a firm that is known to rely on cheap foreign imports often produced in sweathshop-like conditions, pay low wages and offer minimal employee benefits, and do whatever it takes to get city officials to allow them to erect ever more supercenters.

To utter the phrases “profit-maximizing capitalist” and “environmentally concerned” in the same sentence is an oxymoron of rare proportions, but Wal-Mart is proving that a friend of the Republicans can also be a friend of Nature.

WM’s initiative includes bold efforts to reduce energy consumption, as well as a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project. While many may scoff at these seemingly strange bedfellows, we may very well have to take WM at their word this time. It truly looks like they are trying to reduce their carbon footprint (while at the same time Al Gore conveniently jets around the country preaching his inconvenient gospel).

It would not be fair to say that Wal-Mart won’t profit from their new green ways, for part of the initiative includes ways to be more efficient in operations. But if you can be green and save green at the same time, you have just erected a pretty impenetrable shield around yourself.

Naturally, Wal-Mart is going to be looking pretty good with their green aura. Add this to their recent plans to expand the $4 prescription drug program, and you have a company that is making solid efforts to position itself as a caring company. Call it savvy PR, or call it what you will. The fact remains, though, that Wal-Mart is doing things that liberals and organized labor are forced to watch and give credit where it is due.

When a company the size of Wal-Mart makes a giant leap forward such as this, it goes a long way toward restoring faith. Yes, WM has made some blunders in the past, including trying to lure upscale shoppers with trendy clothing, offending its traditional shoppers by eliminating layaway, and bullying its way into some neighborhoods. But it is now setting a good example that will yield benefits both for the environment and shareholders. It’s an example that will no doubt be followed by others. It goes a long way in demonstrating that environmentalism is not the domain only of Al Gore and lemming-like Hollywood celebs who jump on whatever train is leaving the station.

And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Dr “Green Acres” Gerlich

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