There’s no denying it—for a college kid, Walmart is an attractive place to shop. Between its massive selection and low prices, it’s like Target, but cheaper.
And with Walmart’s latest promise to dedicate resources to food justice, it sounds like they’d be the perfect shopping place for the ethical shopper.
On October 7th of this year, Walmart made a feel-good speech:
“Walmart today announced its commitment to create a more sustainable food system. The company will reach this goal through four key pillars: improving the affordability of food for both customers and the environment, increasing access to food, making healthier eating easier, and improving the safety and transparency of the food chain.”
But I’m not buying it.
I’m pretty tired of Walmart’s manipulative branding tactics. The corporation is constantly promising to become more sustainable, but after the celebratory media hype dies down, it’s back to its old ways.
Here are 4 key ways Walmart’s fake sustainability promises can’t be trusted:
1. Walmart promised to be more sustainable 9 years ago… but has since made things worse:
“As one of the largest companies in the world, with an expanding global presence, environmental problems are OUR problems.
We believe every company has a responsibility to reduce greenhouse gases as quickly as it can.”
Whoa, no way, Walmart! That’s what I believe too! If I hadn’t been a fifth-grader at the time, this speech probably would’ve been enough to get me in its stores, feeling self-congratulatory about my purchases’ positive impact.
However, it’s good I didn’t change my buying behavior, because Walmart’s done more than just maintain its emission of green-house gases—it’s actually substantially increased them. Since 2005, its reported emissions have risen 14 percent, bringing Walmart to 21 million metric tons per year.
That number won’t stop rising any time soon. In an April 2013 press release, Walmart indicated that “it will continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide it is pumping into the atmosphere through 2020 and beyond.”
2. Walmart’s pollution levels are so bad, it’s on par with gas giant corporations:
As of last year, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance reported that Walmart’s pollution record is so bad, it ranks alongside gas suppliers:
“If Walmart were included in the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, a list that is limited to heavy industrial firms, such as oil companies and power plants, the retailer would take the 33rd spot, just a hair behind Chevron, America’s second-largest oil company.”
What? These don’t seem like the actions of a company trying to reduce greenhouse gases “as quickly as it can.”
3. Today, Walmart’s renewable energy percentage is stuck in the single-digits.
Even though in that same speech in 2005 Walmart pledged to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, that percentage today is a dismal four. Kohls and Staples, by comparison, are exclusively powered by green energy. Even McDonald’s, at 30 percent renewable energy, comes in ahead.
So what’s the deal? As Walmart explained in its 2012 Global Responsibility Report,“It has sometimes been difficult to find and fund low-carbon technologies that meet our ROI [return-on-investment] requirements.”
Well, I’m sorry being responsible may bring you less money—but that doesn’t give you a free pass. If other, smaller companies can manage more than 4% renewable energy, why can’t you?
4. Walmart and the Waltons fund anti-environment politicians and policies with customers’ money.
However, even worse than the company’s apathy for the environment is its owners’ downright opposition. Over half of the Congressional donations made by Walton family, which owns around 50% of Walmart shares, were given to Congresspeople who voted against the environment at least 70% of the time.
Many of the politicians getting the most Walmart money are ardent climate-change naysayers, such as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Senator Roy Blount, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senator John Boozman.
At the state level, Walmart also sponsors anti-environmentalists, including governors Rick Perry, Bob McDonnell, Mitch Daniels, Tom Corbett, and Jim Cawley.
On the policy level, the Waltons are also backing organizations that are working to restructure the solar power movement into a centralized, expensive, foreign corporate entity.
Essentially, while Walmart is patting itself on the back for being a so-called sustainability leader, it’s actually undermining the environment.
The Bottom Line
Walmart’s latest promise to sell more organic food sounds great in theory.
But it’s pretty clear what will happen next.
If Walmart customers don’t hold Walmart and the Waltons accountable, Walmart won’t change. They’ll be celebrated for their dedication, and then it’ll be back to business as usual. In fact, if we compare the promises made in Scott’s 2005 speech to the reality today in 2014, things actually got worse.
Sorry Walmart, but I refuse to be fooled. The only green you care about is your money.
Aja Frost is a student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a regular contributor to Her Campus, The Prospect, and her college newspaper. Her work has been featured on xoJane and The Huffington Post. The only thing she loves more than writing is dessert. Follow her on Twitter: @ajavuu.