Six reasons to vote for Walmart as the worst greenwasher of 2011

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Our NCAA brackets may be busted, but there’s one winner we could pick without hesitation. Environmental Action and the Green Life are hosting the Worst Greenwashers of 2011 contest. There are eight “no so elite” companies in the running, and we know who we’ve got going all the way: Walmart.

Walmart has made a lot of green promises in recent years, but a closer look reveals that many of the goals have fallen by the wayside or were things the company was already doing. Sounds like greenwashing to us.

Here are six reasons to head over to the Worst Greenwashers of 2011 and vote for Walmart:

  • Walmart’s sustainability goals “function like stealth marketing slogans,” as Stacy Mitchell points out at Grist. For example, in 2005, the company announced its goal was to be supplied by 100% renewable energy. It’s a nice goal that the media loves to repeat, but the company’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow, and seven years later, Walmart gets less than two percent of its energy from solar projects and wind power.
  • The carbon footprint of Walmart’s stores, distribution centers, offices, corporate jets, and such was 21.4 million metric tons in 2010. That’s higher than half the word’s countries, explains Andy Kroll in a recent Mother Jones article. When you add in the company’s supply chain, Walmart’s carbon footprint grows almost tenfold, to 200 million metric tons.
  • Two years ago, Walmart announced that it would sell $1 billion worth of produce from small and medium farms worldwide by the end of 2015. The company called it support for farmers and their communities, but it looks like it was more about saving on transportation costs. Worse, produce industry analyst Jim Prevor said that the company was trying to “get credit for doing what it’s already doing.” Walmart calls any produce sold in the same state as it’s produced “local.” Prevor again: “There’s a joke in the industry that if Walmart wants to increase local sales, all it has to do is open more stores in California.”
  • In 2009, Walmart promised to develop a sustainability index to inform shoppers of the environmental impacts of every item on its shelves. Walmart set a five-year time table. Now, it looks like a consumer label “is really far off and maybe not a reality.” Another environmental idea that sounded good and lacks follow through.
  • Walmart is by far the top container importer in the US. Why is this so important? In 2009, the Guardian reported on a study that found that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50 million cars. Real sustainability means producing more goods locally.
  • An energy efficiency consultant in China described it like this: “Walmart sets a new target, everybody gets all excited, runs around for six months, and then everything kind of slows down and the wheels fall off.”

Looks like a greenwashing champion.

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