Groups attack Walmart for not ‘walking the talk’ on energy and climate change

In an open letter several major US environmental groups have attacked Walmart and its owners, the Walton family, for saying one thing and doing another when it comes to climate change. The groups, including Friends of the Earth, Institute for Local Self Reliance, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, and  five more, claim that Walmart:

  • stated publicly in 2005 that it has a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can but in fact Walmart self reported that, between 2005 and 2012, its carbon dioxide emissions grew from 18.9 to 21.2 million metric tons annually.
  • has indicated that it expects its CO2 emissions to continue to increase over the next decade.
  • reported emissions do not include international shipping, land development, or manufacturing of the products they sell.
  • continues to support extreme dirty energy, including tar sands oil, dirty coal, and fracking. This means Walmart’s climate change pollution is even higher than the massive amount they currently report.
  • finances politicians who fight action to address the climate crisis, including funding the campaigns of some of the most powerful climate change deniers in Congress.
  • continues to fund organizations that are leading major campaigns to block climate legislation.
  • lags far behind many other retailers in making the shift to wind and solar. Last year, the company’s use of renewable power actually declined.
  • continues to elevate profits above all else and leave devastation in its wake. The company’s business model is built around the idea of hiding the true costs of doing business. Walmart is profitable because it externalizes its costs onto people, including its own workers, and the environment.

The groups are calling on Walmart to:

  • implement a publicly verifiable, accurate tracking of all of their climate change emissions, commit to an overall 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, and end reliance on environmentally destructive energy sources and industries, including dirty coal, fracking and the tar sands.
  • hold its suppliers and business partners to these same standards or sever its relationships with them.
  • stop funding anti-environmental politicians, including those leading attacks against climate solutions built on scientific consensus.

If the group’s claims are true, Walmart appears at least to have fallen into the common trap of failing to deliver on promises of improved environmental performance. That’s why GallonDaily recommends that companies not make promises of improved environmental performance until they can demonstrate that they are delivering on those promises, or at least are so close to delivering that an attack such as that launched this week on Walmart is not credible.

At press time GallonDaily was unable to find a response from Walmart to the groups’ claims. If we receive one we will publish either the full response or our summary of it.

The open letter from the nine environmental groups can be found at http://www.ilsr.org/walmart-climate-letter/

A blog, follow the money, recently reported on financial ties between Walmart, through the Walton Family Foundation, and the major US environmental group Environmental Defense Fund. According to an article in Grist last year, EDF has been working closely with Walmart on its sustainability efforts since 2005, and has opened an office in Bentonville, Ark., where Walmart is headquartered. The follow the money article can be found at http://seeker401.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/environmental-defense-fund-greenwashing-walmart-edition/ and the Grist article at http://grist.org/business-technology/walmart-heirs-quietly-fund-walmarts-environmental-allies/

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