GREEN IS WAL-MART?
by Whit Gibbons
August 12, 2007
Stangel hands someone a brochure about what great things Wal-Mart is doing
for the environment, an ecologist might be wary. But knowing that one
of Dr. Stangel's titles is Director of Science and Evaluation at the national
headquarters of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), I was
prepared for something worthwhile. I was not disappointed.
a conservation organization with a mission of "sustaining, restoring,
and enhancing the Nation's fish, wildlife, plants and habitats through
leadership conservation investments." This not-for-profit organization
established by Congress in 1984 and based in Washington, D.C., arranges
matches of private contributions with federal funds. The Foundation's
goals include habitat protection achieved through the private contributions
from some of the world's major business enterprises.
NFWF set up a partnership program with Wal-Mart that was called "Acres
for America." The program has been described as "a novel way
for the corporate world and the conservation community to work cooperatively
to conserve vital wildlife habitat for future generations." When
Wal-Mart initiated their part of the program, they committed $35 million
over the next decade to conserve permanently a minimum of one acre of
prime wildlife habitat for each acre that the company developed for its
project involving Wal-Mart may cause cynical eyebrows to be raised among
some environmentalists, because the company is one of the world's largest
promoters of consumption of natural resources. In fact, in an opinion
piece titled "Acres for America: Wal-Mart's Cynical New Greenwashing
Stacy Mitchell stated that we should "strongly object to Wal-Mart's
propaganda and to NFWF's shameless assertion that Wal-Mart is 'raising
the bar in conservation.' "
this. Although many groups object to Wal-Mart as an eliminator of local
businesses, Wal-Mart is a product of legal, free enterprise capitalism
that will continue to grow under most of today's political systems. So,
if Wal-Mart is going to go about its business anyway, why not take advantage
of their success and give them an opportunity to give something back to
society on the environmental front? One of those "make lemonade"
Acres for America program has helped to protect more than a third of a
million acres, many of which have connected with other protected areas,
providing a broader coverage of the landscape with continuous wildlife
habitat. The diversity of habitats preserved across the country is impressive.
Sherfield Cave in Arkansas has one of the largest winter hibernation sites
for an endangered species, the Indiana bat. The partnership, which in
this case involved The Nature Conservancy as well as NFWF, preserved more
than a thousand acres of wildlife habitat in the vicinity of the cave.
Another NFWF/Wal-Mart partnership has acquired more than 6,000 acres of
privately owned lands in Louisiana that will be donated to the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service to expand the Catahoula National Wildlife Refuge
by 40 percent. More than 400,000 migratory waterfowl and shorebirds are
present at the refuge during peak migration periods.
also involved in environmental partnerships with other major corporations,
including oil companies. For example, BP supports research on polar bears,
ConocoPhillips has supported a migratory bird program for 15 years, ExxonMobil
has invested more than $12 million in support of tiger conservation projects,
and Shell Oil Company has invested $32 million in marine habitat restoration
and conservation. Power companies such as the Pacific Gas and Electric
Corporation and the Southern Company have contributed to conservation
of native species and habitats. NFWF partnerships with Anheuser-Busch/Budweiser,
Bass Pro Shops, ESPN, and the Orvis Company support fish and wildlife
habitat protection and restoration, and help raise public environmental
that they "will consider recommendations for projects that would
generate the greatest impact to important fish, wildlife or plant resources"
with these and other corporate, private, and government partners (go to
www.nfwf.org). Meanwhile, if you have
a Wal-Mart being built in your community, find out how many acres they
are going to develop and propose that they set aside some prime wildlife
habitat as compensation. Give Wal-Mart an opportunity to show their greener
you have an environmental question or comment, email