Washington, D.C. – Nearly a decade after Walmart pledged to become an environmental leader, the company’s greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, making it one of the biggest and fastest growing climate polluters in the country, a new study finds. The report, “Walmart’s Assault on the Climate: The Truth Behind One of the Biggest Climate Polluters and Slickest Greenwashers in America”, released on November 13 by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), shows that since the launch of the 2005 campaign, Walmart’s self-reported greenhouse gas emissions have grown 14%.
When calculating its emissions, the company fails to account for major sources of pollution in its operations, including those from international shipping, new store construction, and product manufacturing. In the last decade, Walmart imports from abroad have grown 247%. And in the next two years alone, the company plans to open 516 new stores in the U.S. – more than 41 million square feet – whose design maximizes land consumption, driving and pollution.
“Even by Walmart’s own admission, the company has failed to live up to its 2005 pledge to reduce their environmental footprint,” said Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the ILSR and author of the new report. “Rather than allocate resources to reduce emissions, Walmart has launched a publicity campaign that boasts of solar installations while green-washing the true environmental costs of its business model.”
The report comes as leading environmental groups from across the nation join calls for change at the nation’s largest retailer. In an open letter to the company, environmental organizations, including Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and Energy Action Coalition, note that Walmart lags far behind retailers in making the shift to wind and solar electricity. Last year, the company’s use of renewable power actually declined. Absent substantial changes to its practices, the amount of climate change pollution Walmart contributes is on track to increase in the coming decade.
“As the nation’s largest employer, and the largest company in the world, Walmart has an obligation to match its clean energy commitments with a greater commitment to reducing its global warming pollution and improve how it treats its employees,” said Philip D. Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.
Environmental leaders are calling on Walmart to implement a publicly verifiable, accurate tracking of all their climate change emissions, commit to an overall 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, and end reliance on environmentally-destructive energy sources and industries, including dirty coal, fracking and tar sands oil.
“Walmart is failing on climate exactly like it is failing on worker’s rights. The company’s carbon pollution is up 14 percent while it pours millions of dollars into a misleading PR campaign around sustainability and anti-environmental public officials who obstruct solutions to climate disruption,” Sierra Club, America’s oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization, said in a statement delivered by Michael Marx, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Oil Campaign. “If Walmart wants us to live better, it can start by treating its workers with the dignity and respect they deserve and taking real steps to cut carbon pollution.”
While other companies have taken concrete, effective steps towards increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste and selling sustainable products, Wal-Mart continues to outsize and out-pollute its competitors. The company’s ties to extreme energy sources like tar sands and fracking exacerbate the global threat of climate change.
In 2005, in the face of wide-spread opposition to its new stores and a plummeting stock price, Walmart announced that it would transform itself into a leader on environmental sustainability. Since then, the company has touted its ambitions to raise energy efficiency standards and increase its use of renewable energy.
Last year, the company made $ 17 billion in profits, with the wealth of the Walton family totaling over $ 144.7 billion.
Instead of investing in efforts to reduce its carbon footprint, Walmart continues to channel money to lawmakers who deny global warming. ILSR’s report finds that
Walmart’s campaign donations have been on the wrong side of every Congressional vote on the climate crisis. Walmart’s donations heavily favored lawmakers who voted to keep subsidies for oil companies and prevented the EPA from regulating greenhouse gas emissions.
Between 2005 and 2012, Walmart’s carbon dioxide emissions grew to 21.2 million metric tons annually. If the company were included in the Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index, a list that is limited to heavy industrial firms, such as oil companies and metal smelters, the retailer would take the 33rd spot, just a hair behind Chevron.
“A closer examination of what Walmart is actually doing behind all of its climate announcements shows the company continues to externalize its costs on people and the environment,” said Mitchell. “Elevating profits above all else is leaving a wake of environmental destruction and increasingly endangering the future of our planet.”
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The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a 39-year-old national non-profit research and educational organization. ILSR’s mission is to provide innovative strategies, working models and timely information to support strong, community rooted, environmentally sound and equitable local economies. For more information, visit www.ilsr.org.