Case: Environmental Sustainability at Walmart
The case study provides the details of the future vision of Walmart where it is trying to be a world leader in being world’s best environmental friendly company. They have a clear vision and that is to generate 100% of its energy from green sources and to produce zero waste (Sustainability, 2017). Their strategy consist of different steps. For example they plan to offer their customers shopping bags made of 100% renewable material. They also are trying to reduce the material they use to pack their products and use renewable packaging. They have decided to equip their trucks that they use for transportation with cooling and heating system that won’t need to turn on the truck engine that could result in the emission of carbon. It is these and many other steps that would help Walmart become environment friendly and also develop a positive perception in the eyes of their consumers.
Though the steps that Walmart is taking to become more environment friendly must be appreciated, I must say that sometimes firms use greenwashing, which is a phenomenon to use sustainability only as a form of marketing and not engage in practical steps (Laufer, 2003). That is why I do hope that the consumers also keep an eye on the efforts of Walmart and make sure that what they are promising in regards to the use of recyclable material in their packaging are legitimate and not just greenwashing.
In the following section, I have provided a general analysis of why companies must be socially responsible and how can being socially responsible and sustainable make a company operationally efficient. I would also be discussing some of the advantages of becoming sustainable and engaging in activities related to corporate social responsibility.
Corporate social responsibility, sustainability and Operational efficiency
Corporate social responsibility or CSR are activities that a firm engages in in order to contribute to social causes and without an effort to maximize profits (McWilliams, 2000). Different organizations engage in different activities of social benefit. For example a companies like Coca Cola who use a lot of water in their beverages may engage in activities like water conservation to spread awareness about the importance of water and how to stop its wastage. Some companies may work on women empowerment to enable women to be a productive part of the society. Both these examples do not have a visible financial profit. Instead companies do these activities to produce a positive image which in long term may can be converted into financial gains.
I have always asked question about the intention of companies engaging in CSR activities. I may have sometimes doubted their intentions. But regardless of their intentions, I think that the positive work that these companies do must be appreciated so that they can be followed by other companies.
World resources are vanishing. A certain level of maintainability is required to keep natural resources like jungles, water and fossil energy alive. Sustainability is therefore expected to be an integral part of the business plan of organization to avoid the depletion of natural resources and keep an ecological balance (Belz & Peattie, 2009). Being sustainable is a part of the CSR activities of organizations. Walmart, for example is selling products to its customers most of which are taken from the natural world. They would never want the natural ecological balance to get unbalance. Therefore, Walmart has made sustainability an integral part of its overall operations.
The question here is how sustainability and CSR would affect the operations of an organization? My answer to this question is straight forward. It would improve the operation efficiency, may be not in the short run, but definitely in the long run. Adapting to renewable energy and other sustainable processes may require the expenditure of financial resources now, but it could have positive impacts in the long run as with more awareness, consumers would get to know the importance of living green and may opt only for companies who help them live a greener life.
In this section I would be providing answers to the questions posed in the case study according to the details provided in the case study and some outside information sources.
- How is Walmart doing in terms of environmental sustainability?
In the energy sector, their goal is to use 100% renewable energy in the future. At present, they are using solar energy in many of their retail stores. They are also minimizing their wastes by using renewable material for their packaging and transportation. Walmart has introduced paper shopping bags that would be a replacement of their plastic shopping bags in the future. Walmart has planned to become a zero waste company and set an example for its competitors and other companies. In my opinion, all these efforts made by Walmart would definitely have an impact as it is one of the world’s biggest retailer.
- Based on library and Internet research, report on other Walmart sustainability efforts.
According to Walmart’s website, it is taking many steps to ensure environmental sustainability (Sustainability, 2017). Walmart is partnering with leading organizations to enable the recycling of electronic products. For this reason, since 2013, Walmart trades new mobiles and tablets for old mobiles and tables and recycles the old electronic devices that might be simply thrown away by their owners. Walmart is trying its best to have their suppliers engage in sustainable and ethical practice. Walmart claim their suppliers to be responsible. Walmart ensures that these suppliers are not involved in child labor and other unethical corporate practices like giving very low wages to their employees.
- Compare the firm’s sustainability plan to those of Home Depot, Target, or other big-box retailers.
After I viewed the sustainability efforts by other companies, I am confident to say that Walmart is well ahead of all it competitors. There could be a variety of reasons behind it. The first reason is the will to do the right thing. The second and one of the important factor is the fact that Walmart is a much bigger organization with enough capital to go on venture like CSR and sustainability. They can afford it more financially compared to their competitors. Other organizations may be facing a dilemma as sustainability efforts may not have any financial benefits in the near future while these organizations need capital to run their present operations smoothly and effeciently.
- How much of Walmart’s sustainability effort is (a) resource focused, (b) recycle focused, (c) regulation focused, and (d) reputation focused?
Walmart is making progress in all the four areas in my opinion. It is focusing on the sustainability of its resources. For example it is trying to be more dependent on solar resource of energy. It is also recycle focused as many of its operations focus on the recycling of different items like electronic devices. It is fulfilling the legal regulations. Also Walmart is focusing on its refutation and is clearly aware of the positive perception its sustainability efforts are making.