"Wal-Mart has been getting some great press lately. At the beginning of the week, newspapers were full of stories about Wal-Mart's plan to ask its suppliers to measure and reduce their carbon emissions for the benefit of the environment.
It's time to counter some of the hype about Wal-Mart's sustainability...the newly "sustainable" Wal-Mart is still allowing its products to be made in sweatshops and is still devastating local communities. But even if we look only at the environmental issues - especially the issue of climate change - Wal-Mart is still a problem. That's because despite the company's laudable environmental policies, its entire business model is unsustainable, and in fact, extremely harmful to the environment.
One problem with the model is that it induces people to drive more and to drive longer distances to do their shopping. Because of the huge size of Wal-Mart super centers, they take up very large amounts of land, so they often have to be built on the outskirts of cities and towns. This means people will get in their cars to go shopping rather than walk to the store. The additional driving induced by big box stores significantly increases greenhouse gas emissions.
Another major problem with the Wal-Mart model is that the company buys so many of its products from suppliers on the other side of the globe, rather than buying them from local farms and factories. This isn't just bad for local suppliers; it also means products have to travel thousands upon thousands of miles to get to Wal-Mart's shelves. When garlic is shipped to Wal-Mart stores in California from China instead of from Gilroy, then that much more fuel is used and that much more CO2 is emitted than if the products were purchased locally."