Walmart Workers, Environmentalists Bring Search for Rob Walton to Beverly Hills Fundraiser

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1185672_10202219027971517_1980116518_nBeverly Hills, CA (March 13, 2013)–Members of OUR Walmart joined by community supporters protested outside a Conservation International cocktail event to call on Walmart Board Chair Rob Walton, who also serves as a key leader of Conservation International, to lead Walmart in creating good jobs and standing up for the environment.

The black-tie event, attended by Rob Walton’s close influential and affluent friends, took place at the upscale Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. While inside the hotel, Walmart workers hoped to speak to Rob Walton and deliver a petition signed by hundreds of supporters calling the Walton family and Walmart to listen to the concerns of its workers, provide good jobs, end its poverty wages, and to commit to fair labor standards.

Event attendees were also urged to join environmental justice groups and Walmart workers in questioning Conservation International’s green-washing of Walmart’s poor record on carbon emissions and the environment. Nearly a decade after launching its “sustainability” campaign and committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Walmart’s greenhouse gas emissions have risen by more than 14% and continue to rise.

Marissa Mayer targeted by environmentalists for backing Walmart-style politics

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Image Source: HeyZuck Facebook page

Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who is also a member of the Walmart Board of Directors, is under fire for backing a group that’s bringing Walmart-style politics to Silicon Valley.

The Valley is home to an incredibly wealthy cohort of tech industry entrepreneurs, investors, and executives. Despite their wealth, Silicon Valley elites clearly contrast themselves with old-school corporate titans like the Koch brothers and the Waltons (the family that owns a majority share in Walmart). The Valley’s political culture has tilted against the proverbial smoke-filled room and toward transparency.

That culture may be changing, however. And perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Marissa Mayer – a Silicon Valley executive with close ties to Walmart – is caught up in the transformation. Still, the details in this case are surprising because they reveal a side of Marissa Mayer that seems at odds with her very public persona.

Mayer is a major Obama donor and fundraiser – and even had the president over to her house for dinner with a select group of Silicon Valley tech royalty. She’s for marriage equality.  And Mayer’s husband, Zack Bogue, is an ardent environmentalist whose tweets about climate change and the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline make clear his disdain for corporate lobbyists and politicians who are blocking action on the climate issue (some examples here and here).

Now it turns out that Mayer is backing FWD.us, a political advocacy group that has funded ads attacking President Obama and backing Republican Senators who have been among his foremost critics. And there’s more. Some of the ads also tout the Senators’ support for oil pipeline and drilling projects that environmentalists (including Zack Bogue) oppose.

Source: FWD.us

Source: FWD.us

As a result, Mayer is being targeted by a coalition of environmental groups, including the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters. How did it come to this?

FWD.us was set up by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommate Joe Green, with the primary goal of loosening restrictions on visas for foreign tech workers.

Adweek explains that FWD.us sought to win conservative votes for their issue by spending up to “seven figures… fronting ads for conservative causes.”

As reported in the Washington Post, one of the ads features Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) attacking President Obama and his agenda. Another FWD.us-backed ad champions Senator Mark Begich (D-Alaska) for his support of the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The ads that Mayer apparently helped fund don’t even mention immigration reform.

Some commentators have pointed to the lack of principle demonstrated by FWD.us, which is simultaneously funding liberal and conservative subsidiaries (see here). One FWD.us subsidiary, the Council for American Job Growth, is intended to appeal to liberals, while another, Americans for a Conservative Direction appeals to the right.

Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk, dropped out of FWD.us when he learned about the ad campaign, saying, “I agreed to support Fwd.us because there is a genuine need to reform immigration. However, this should not be done at the expense of other important causes.”

But Mayer is staying loyal to FWD.us. So is Jim Breyer, her former colleague on the Walmart Board of Directors and a billionaire investor who is a Silicon Valley legend in his own right.

It’s not clear whether Mayer’s entanglement with FWD.us and the increasingly public criticism over her role at Walmart will have a negative impact on Yahoo! But, given that Yahoo! already has plenty of problems, industry watchers may begin to ask why Mayer would do anything that might unnecessarily damage her image, which is a valuable asset for the company.

Eight things to know about Walmart’s new image guy

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Dan Bartlett, Walmart's new EVP of Corporate Affairs

Walmart announced this week that it has hired former Bush administration official Dan Bartlett to replace Leslie Dach as the company’s top image polisher (officially, EVP of Corporate Affairs).

While some thought Walmart had gone soft by hiring former Democratic operative Dach in 2006, they’ll make no such mistake this time. Here are eight things to get you introduced to the man who will be out there greenwashing and using the Walmart Foundation as a “lever” to help the company achieve its goals.

  1. Bartlett got his start working for Karl Rove’s consulting firm in Texas.
  2. He was quickly picked up by George W. Bush’s Texas gubernatorial campaign in 1993, when he was just 22 years old.
  3. Eventually, Bush wound up in the White House, and so did Bartlett. He started out as deputy assistant to the President and deputy to the counselor to the President in January 2001. By the time Bartlett left in 2007, he had served as White House Communications Director and ultimately as Counselor to the President.
  4. Texas Monthly describes Bartlett’s communications style, which sums up the Bush White House pretty well:

The 52-person communications shop he controlled was famous for its lockdown discipline and airtight message control. Reporters often complained about how stingy it was with information and how stubbornly it clung to the designated message du jour.

  1. After leaving the White House, Bartlett joined PR firm and lobbyist Public Strategies, which later become Hill + Knowlton Strategies US. Before Walmart picked him up, Bartlett was president and CEO of H+K US.
  2. At H+K, Bartlett helped bailed out banks like Goldman Sachs burnish their public images. And Public Strategies once did crisis communications for a natural gas company following an explosion that killed an elderly couple.
  3. H+K are also experienced greenwashers, having helped to keep petrol taxes low on behalf of the American Petroleum Institute and campaigned for deregulation for the American Truckers Association. They list Athabasca Oil Sands Corp as a client too. H+K describes its work to help AOSC keep “a low public profile, enabling AOSC to obtain the necessary regulatory approvals for the $2 billion transaction.”
  4. As expected, the former Bush aide makes political contributions to Republicans. In late 2011, he contributed to the campaign of controversial Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott is known for threatening to arrest election observers in 2012; telling gun-owning New Yorkers to come to Texas; and, most recently, calling Democrats in Texas a more dangerous threat than North Korea.

Looks like Walmart has found just the man for the job.

Rob Walton, supposed environmentalist, funding attacks on AZ candidate for vote against Keystone Pipeline

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Several late-filing super PACs revealed their donors this week. Among them was the small but controversial Secure Arizona PAC out of Kansas City, MO. Secure Arizona has received contributions from four individuals this election cycle, totaling $145,000. One of those four donors is none other than Walmart board chair Rob Walton, who gave $10,000 to the super PAC on June 30, 2012. While Rob’s siblings have gotten into the super PAC game already this cycle, the contribution to Secure Arizona represents Rob Walton’s first such involvement.

What does Secure Arizona stand for? So far, the super PAC has spent $17,500 on television ads opposing Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), who is running in the Republican primary for an Arizona Senate seat. The New Republic explains, “The ad, which makes the flimsy accusation that Flake voted against the conservative-beloved Keystone XL pipeline, is airing just a handful of times.”

The Keystone Pipeline is an odd cause for Rob Walton to take up, given the Waltons’ public image as supporters of conservation and sustainability. Rob Walton has prominent ties to environmental organizations. He is the chair of Conservation International’s Executive Committee, and he is a major donor and co-chair of the Board of Trustees for Sustainability at the Arizona State University Global Institute of Sustainability.

It’s important to take note when members of the 1%–like the Walton family—throw their fortunes into political races. For all that pundits have expected since the advent of super PACs, one thing has proven true: only a very small portion of the population makes big election contributions. According to the Atlantic, “.01 percent [of Americans] give more than $10,000 in any election cycle. And .000063 percent — 196 Americans — have given more than 80 percent of the super-PAC money spent in the presidential elections so far.” With one donation on one day, Rob Walton has taken a giant step toward joining both of those groups.

Is Walmart green?

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Check out this infographic about Walmart’s sustainability claims from Ethical Ocean:

Is Walmart Green? [Infographic]

via Ethical Ocean – eco friendly products, fair trade and vegan shopping.

Top Ten Ways Walmart Fails on Sustainability

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This week, Walmart released its annual sustainability report. But as we’ve discussed before, Walmart’s quest for sustainability is more of a greenwashing PR campaign than an effective solution to the company’s environmental problems.

To help cut through the PR, Food and Water Watch and the Institute for Local Self-Reliance released a fact sheet this week, detailing ten ways Walmart is failing on sustainability.

1. Selling Shoddy Products
2. Reducing Waste According to Who?
3. Lagging on Renewable Energy
4. Increasing Greenhouse Gases
5. Voraciously Consuming Land
6. Financing Anti-Environment Candidates
7. Consolidating & Industrializing Food Production
8. Redefining Local
9. Degrading Organic
10. Spreading Poverty

The list highlights things we’ve talked about on this site and great research by Stacy Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance as well as Food and Water Watch’s own work on Walmart and the food system. To read more about Walmart’s failure on sustainability, you can find the full bulletin on the Top Ten Ways Walmart Fails on Sustainability here.

The results are in: Walmart is a top greenwasher

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Last week, we wrote about Environmental Action and the Green Life’s Worst Greenwashers of 2011 contest. Well, the results are in, and with the help of your votes, Walmart came in third.

Walmart’s top three showing was the result of many of the reasons we’ve highlighted here. The contest organizers explain,

In the past three years, Walmart has embarked on a bold strategy for sustainability – or so their PR department would have you believe. From solar panels in parking lots to organic produce on (some) shelves, Walmart is touting their green initiatives. But it’s more of a public relations move than a deep change.

And Walmart is as unsustainable as ever. Their products push our entire culture toward cheap, throwaway production. Their stores undermine other businesses and increase driving and oil dependence. Worse still, Walmart spends big money on anti-environment political causes.

Head over to the Green Life to see a slide show featuring eight top greenwashers and read their “Don’t Be Fooled” report to learn more about all of them, including Walmart.

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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