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Associated Press
Wal-Mart presented little new information in its first major report on efforts to become greener, but it was enough to encourage at least one environmental group which said the world’s largest retailer is trying.
The report released Thursday details dozens of programs ranging from environmental to economic development, employee health care and ethics in overseas factories where it buys goods.
Most have been reported previously, but the 64-page report is the first comprehensive catalog of dozens of programs, from organic cotton clothes to low-energy freezer cases, launched since Chief Executive Lee Scott set three green goals in October 2005.
Those goals are to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste and to sell products that help sustain resources and the environment. Scott did not set any timelines, although there are deadlines for some of the steps in striving for those goals.
Scott said in a foreword that the report shows Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is making progress, but still has work to do.
“We make no claims of being a green company. And we’re not saying we’re better than other companies. But what we are saying is we’re doing sustainability in a way that’s real and right for Wal-Mart and is touching the lives of millions of people around the world,” Scott wrote.
He reiterated Wal-Mart’s stated theory of two years ago, that reducing its environmental impact is a smart business move because it saves money and produces better products.
Environmental Defense, a group that works with large companies to help them design and implement green plans, welcomed the report.
“The company is moving in the right direction, and learning as it goes,” the group said in a statement. Environmental Defense is the only green group to open an office, with two staff members, in Wal-Mart’s headquarters town of Bentonville, Ark., to coordinate the effort.
Environmental Defense said, however, that Wal-Mart must provide more data and context in the sustainability report. For example, it said, the report lists new low-flow sinks that cut water use in some store bathrooms, but does not specify how many stores use the technology and what water use was before the installations.
“Our takeaway is that over the last two years, Wal-Mart has built the foundation for a robust environmental program with many innovative and potentially transformational projects,” Environmental Defense said.
On the other side, a coalition of 23 environmental and human rights groups that issued a report earlier this year critical of Wal-Mart’s efforts said it still believes Wal-Mart is simply too big and too reliant on global sourcing and shipping to be green.
“Our overall argument is that even if Wal-Mart achieved all of its stated goals, the company’s business model is inherently unsustainable,” said Sarah Anderson from the Institute for Policy Studies, one of the coalition groups along with union-backed WakeUpWalMart, Friends of the Earth and The Cornucopia Institute.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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