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Wal-Mart Plans to Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases (But Why?)

Wal-Mart has come out with another ambitious goal: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions...


Wal-Mart has come out with another ambitious goal:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the life-cycle of its profits by the end of 2015, the retail behemoth said Thursday. The number represents 1 1/2 times the massive company's estimated carbon growth over the next five years, or the equivalent of the emissions produced by 3.8-million cars over one year, Chief Executive Mike Duke said in a webcast presentation from the company's Bentonville, Ark. corporate headquarters.
That's a significant number and it looks like the cuts are all coming from the supply chain. In other words, Wal-Mart is going to lean on the companies it buys stuff from to get them to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This is great (obviously) and it's just the latest in a long line of ecologically enlightened things Wal-Mart has done.At this point, the knee-jerk Wal-Mart critic is usually confused: "Why would an evil, exploitative big-box store do something good? Does not compute." And then someone explains that Wal-Mart does just care about money but that sustainability is actually good for business.That's how Wal-Mart's SVP of Sustainability Matt Kistler explained this latest announcement:
"Carbon is a cost," he says. "If we can remove carbon from a supply chain, ultimately they become more competitive. If they can use less energy in the manufacturing of the product, or if the consumer uses less energy, they are certainly reducing their costs or putting dollars in the pockets of their customer."
But I'm still confused. Kistler's wrong: Carbon isn't a cost. Energy certainly is but there's no federal cap-and-trade system in the United States. There's no explicit cost for carbon. If Wal-Mart's suppliers can buy cheaper energy from a coal plant than they can from a wind farm, that's just savings.My only guess is that Wal-Mart thinks it's inevitable that some cost gets imposed on carbon in the near future and wants to be ready for it. And, in fact, that could have another positive side-effect: Wal-Mart (and its suppliers) might be more likely to lobby for carbon legislation if they're all ready for it.Photo from Flickr user sun dazed.
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