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Olivia Zaleski Headshot

Wal-Mart's Environmentalists

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Excuse me while I climb onto my soapbox, but I'm tired of critics attacking environmentalists who work with Wal-Mart. Don't get me wrong, I despise Waldermort just as much as the next wannabe activist, but cat-calling those who attempt to guide Wal-Mart to better environmental practices is counterproductive and a waste of precious time.

My frustration surfaces after attending Sustainable Life Media's Sustainable Brands '07 Conference. The convention's goal: to educate large companies on the profitability of environmental best practices. Wal-Mart's Senior Director of Strategy and Sustainability, Rand Waddoups opened the conference by sharing Wal-Mart's latest Sustainability Plan, devised with the help of x-Sierra Club President Adam Werbach.

Just one week before attending the conference, I read, fellow HuffPo blogger, Cliff Schechter's rip, "Adam Werbach: Wal-Mart's New Fraud Salesman." "What Werbach needs to realize, is that Wal-Mart is beyond improvement and yes, beyond redemption," said Schechter. Those who really are forward-thinking need to stop working with [Werbach], certainly stop paying him . . . and stop returning his phone calls."

In many ways Schechter is right. Wal-Mart should not be in any environmentalist's pocket, but ostracizing Wal-Mart from environmental progress could be a huge mistake. We simply can't afford to hope that big corporations will figure it out unaided. Without divine eco-vention, how will companies like Wal-Mart move forward?

It's sad to say, but corporations could be our largest and most effective conduits for change. Yesterday, for example, Wal-Mart gathered over 2,000 of the world's largest suppliers to meet with several of the planet's most innovative green businesses, non-profit organizations and institutions, such as Forest Stewardship Council, World Wildlife Fund, Rainforest Alliance, McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry and the Biomimicry Guild. Called the Wal-Mart Live Better Sustainability Summit, the convention also hosts a Sustainability Resource Fair featuring dozens of experts who can help suppliers drive sustainable innovation.

In my eyes, those greenies attending Wal-Mart's conference are not hypocrites or turncoats, but true pioneers, entering the trenches and infiltrating the omnipotent. With their help, I believe corporate responsibility can become a reality and not just another marketing buzz term.