Best Buy was criticized in the year 2007, alongside other large companies, for contributing to the destruction of the environment. Greenpeace blamed the giant American consumer electronics retailer for purchasing materials from logging companies and thereby contributing to unethical, reckless and shameless destruction of forests in Canada.
Since it was dressed down in public, however, Best Buy instituted a sustainability strategy to demonstrate the company’s long-term commitment in environmental, social and economic responsibility.
Dubbed Greener Together, the strategy seeks to minimize consumer waste and involves a recycling program for outdated electronic products, as well as an initiative that seeks to increase energy efficiency of the company’s products.
Under the same business sustainability strategy, Best Buy also committed itself to repackage its products in recyclable and biodegradable material and to provide proper disposal of certain toxic electronic components such as rechargeable batteries.
Wal-Mart, on the other hand, was the first American giant retailer to earn a reputation for speaking in favor of the environment. In the year 1989, the company was held in high esteem and honor, especially by environmentalists for promoting green products. In October 2005, Wal-Mart’s President and CEO re-launched an ambitious sustainability strategy.
The sweeping business sustainability strategy, which was announced in Bentonville, Arkansas, was aimed to transform Wal-Mart to be the world’s most competitive and innovative company.
According to the strategy which was launched inside a full packed auditorium and broadcast to over a million business employees and associates, the company was determined to create zero waste and to sell products that are sustainable to resources and friendly to the environment. Wal-Mart also planned to have all its energy requirements supplied by renewable energy.
True, most businesses are not established for charity but are instead more concerned about making huge, quick, short-term profits at the expense of the environment. Yet, there are many reasons Wal-Mart should reintegrate sustainable business practices. As CEO Lee Scott himself stated, being a good steward of issues related to the environment and doing profitable business are one and the same thing.
Thus, Wal-Mart should view sustainability not only as a responsibility but also as a business opportunity. The company should be proactive in environmental issues by encouraging the suppliers to provide environmentally safe products and by repackaging goods that they deliver to their customers in recyclable and biodegradable material.
Waste-reduction strategy, for example, can help the company make savings from the resultant reduction in disposal costs. Enhancing energy efficiency, on the other hand, can lead to a reduction in costs and hence result in increase of the company’s profits. Most governments today have in place strict laws and regulations to ensure sound management of the environment and proper utilization of resources.
Sustainable practices will, therefore, avoid environmental penalties and help reduce insurance liability. Again, a company that embraces social and ecological concerns in its business operations stands a good chance of expanding its market territory as a result of an improved public image.
Moving towards sustainability can be challenging, costly and calls for social responsibility and ethical consumerism. Wal-Mart should, therefore, renew its effort in sustainability to re-affirm the company as a steward in responsible management of resources.
Like Best Buy, the multi-national retailer Wal-Mart should work to improve its public image by practicing sustainable business and by incorporating social, economic and ecological concerns in its operations.