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November 13, 2013

Walmart Failing Workers, Failing on Climate

By Michael Marx, Sierra Club Beyond Oil campaign director

The Sierra Club has long supported Walmart workers and communities in their struggle for dignity and fairness. Sustainability simply can't happen without respect and humility, and it won't happen when a company like Walmart fails to follow through on climate promises.

When it comes to the environment, Walmart touts its stewardship, but a report released by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance -- Walmart's Assault on the Climate -- establishes that the world's largest retailer is failing to cut its carbon pollution. Walmart's own accounting shows that the company's carbon pollution has risen by 14 percent since the 2005 launch of its sustainability PR campaign, when it promised to lower its emissions across the board.

Walmart's failure to cut its carbon pollution is even more devastating because the company excludes international shipping, new store construction, and sprawl from its calculations. Meanwhile, only 4 percent of the power Walmart uses to power its stores comes from renewable sources. Walmart is failing on clean energy.

On transportation, the Sierra Club's Future Fleet campaign is working to help Walmart and other companies increase the fuel efficiency of their fleets. This is an area where Walmart could lead the industry. But the company's reliance on extreme fuel sources like oil from tar sands ties it to the world's dirtiest sources of energy. Large companies have an outsized influence on the efficiency of cars and trucks that manufacturers build, and on the sources of fuel that oil companies use. Nineteen major U.S. companies are avoiding oil from tar sands in their shipping and vehicle fleets. Walmart needs to take similar responsibility for its owned and contracted car and truck fleet and its carbon pollution.

The latest science reaffirms that to avoid irreversible harm from climate disruption, we must immediately make deep cuts in carbon pollution and move quickly toward a clean-energy economy. As the world's largest retailer, Walmart has an outsize share of responsibility to help get us there. Unfortunately, today's report indicates that Walmart is not taking effective steps to shift to renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, reduce waste, or sell sustainable products. Walmart cannot continue to out-size and out-pollute its competitors while simultaneously touting its business model as compatible with environmental sustainability.

Similarly, Walmart cannot continue to support climate deniers and radical antienvironmental public officials. Climate denial is a cynical and dangerous strategy, copied from the tobacco industry, to attack scientists and undermine public trust to delay action on cutting carbon pollution. Walmart has exercised its immense financial power to shirk the American public's demands for socially responsible business. The company is failing America on carbon pollution, it's failing its employees on livable wages and on the dignity and respect they deserve, and it's failing Americans by delaying action on climate.

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.

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