Wal-Mart Sustainability

I just heard a great talk and discussion from the Stanford Center for Social Innovation with Lawrence Jackson, former President and CEO of Global Procurement, Wal-Mart.


The main points were:

The move towards sustainability was started by one very influential person inside the organisation, Rob Walton.

The first store retro-fits were very expensive and did not work that well. But, Wal-Mart was willing to take the initial losses because they saw the big picture and potential windfall. When setting out on a new business path, the first steps are always the hardest (and most expensive). That is why Vision Setting is so important.

Wal-Mart included NGOs and other organisations which were not traditionally friendly to Wal-Mart in the sustainability discussions. This was an example of Community Engagement on the largest possible scale. Wal-Mart realized that their efforts needed support from the Environmental Community to ensure success and credibility.

The CEO, Lee Scott set aside one our per week to deal with sustainability. This shows how seriously they took the issue. How often do you see a recurring one hour meeting on a CEO’s weekly schedule?

They started their organic cotton line with Baby Wear. This was logical as the people who are most prone to buying wholesome products are mothers. To convince the board that organic cotton was a good idea, Lawrence Jackson simply brought in a tub of pesticides and set it down on the boardroom table. The tub contained the exact amount of pesticides that was used to make the shirts the board members were wearing. This was a great use of a concrete example to enact change.

If Wal-Mart can make these changes, so can other organisations.

Published on December 7, 2007