Nature Noted

Notes on a changing Nature

Location: Bellville, Texas, United States

I never would have predicted this one

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Just because it's cynical doesn't make it wrong

You have to give Wal-Mart credit. When it does something, it does it big. The company's image has been under assault, and some of the blows have begun to hurt. It needed a PR boost fast... something that would get it positive coverage across a wide spectrum of media. So it decides to latch onto an idea put to it by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation a year ago. Make a big donation to save an amount of land equal to the "footprint" of all your stores.
Here's how the New York Times puts it.
Barely a week after environmentalists forged a broad alliance with organized labor and community groups to attack Wal-Mart and its business practices, the company announced Tuesday that it would donate $35 million over the next decade to an ambitious new conservation effort by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
And the donation got attention. From CBS and NBC to sports media like ESPN to international media like the CBC and the Financial Times .
The size of the gift seemed to stun Wal-Mart critics. Here's how the Financial Times put it The Sierra Club, the largest US environmental group with 700,000 members, described the plan as "welcome". But the group, which is a member of a new coalition of Wal-Mart critics, also accused the company of trying to "paint itself green" and called on it to improve its record on environmental problems arising from its store development programme. Last year, Wal-Mart paid a $3.1m fine to the federal government over storm water discharge from construction sites for new stores in nine states.
As detailed in my previous post, the land purchases will be across the U.S and Canada. It could have big local implications in those areas.
According the the Times Some $6 million of the money will be spent on an agreement to protect 312,000 acres of contiguous land between 600,000 acres of protected land in New Brunswick, Canada, and 200,000 acres protected by the State of Maine. The purchase will create an area of roughly 1 million acres of protected land, with more than 50 lakes, 1,500 miles of rivers and streams and 54,000 acres of wetlands, home to 10 percent of Maine's famous loon population. "I cannot overstate the importance of this," John Berry, the executive director of the foundation, said of the Maine agreement. "This is like a Noah's Ark for Eastern wildlife species, everything from big stuff like moose to frogs and salamanders."
So was it a cynical grab to buy environmental respectability? Smells like it. But if it makes a real difference, does that make it bad?


Blogger gaw3 said...

I remember the same feeling when McDonald's switched away from styrofoam packs for the Big Mac. When a truly big company does it-- for whatever reason!- it really reverberates.

3:09 AM  
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10:24 AM  

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