December 12, 2019

How green is Wal-Mart?

In his letter to the editor (BDN, April 5) in support of constructing a Wal-Mart Supercenter, David C. Danielson Sr. raises an interesting question. Just how “green” is Wal-Mart? Does it contribute significantly to conservation and the environment? Curious, I looked at Fortune magazine and Wal-Mart’s annual report and Web site.

Wal-Mart earned $219 billion last year. The biggest corporation in the world, Wal-Mart now tops the Fortune 500 list, surpassing Exxon/Mobil. It has 2,348 discount stores, 1,294 Supercenters, and 528 SAM’s Clubs located in all 50 states and nine other countries from Argentina to the United Kingdom. It’s reasonable to expect such a huge company to take an environmental stand.

Buried in Wal-Mart’s Web site is a small section devoted to its environmental commitment. Last year, Wal-Mart contributed $1.5 million to communities through their environmental grants. It also co-sponsored a national park recycling program and a couple of environmental education programs for kids. In addition, each store has an assistant manager who can provide the public with “information concerning environmental issues.” At some stores, an associate can volunteer to be a “Green Coordinator.” There is also a quarterly newsletter called the “Green Scene.”

None of this information reassured me. One and a half million dollars is a very small fraction of Wal-Mart’s revenues, something like 0.00078 percent. By my calculations, Wal-Mart contributed last year roughly $360 per store. The typical Supercenter rakes in $80 million annually.

How can we who live in the Bangor area be reassured that Wal-Mart cares about protecting our environment? What promises can the company give us that in a few years, when we no longer suit its bottom line, Wal-Mart won’t turn tail and run, leaving us with a ghost mall, 20 acres of asphalt, a polluted stream and a dead marsh?

Elizabeth Payne


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