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We might not call them tree-huggers just yet, but Big Box retailers are promoting eco-friendly products and committing to making store operations and supply chains “green” as well. In the past, Wal-Mart received a lot of criticism for its operations and business practices—but not anymore. Its initiatives are helping the chain expand into geographic areas that otherwise would not have accepted a new store because of its previous eco-unfriendly stigma.

Wal-Mart and Home Depot embraced Earth Day by not only promoting energy-efficient products but also educating consumers about the cost and energy savings of eco-friendly products. Wal-Mart explained to customers that fluorescent light bulbs last longer and use less power, then sold those same customers, among many other products, organic plant holders and eco-friendly ceiling fans.

The trend to save the environment is growing among both businesses and consumers. In 2005, the organic industry grew 17 percent to $14.6 billion in consumer sales. Retailers are responding with more products that benefit the environment, as well as attempts to reduce the impact of their stores, with their huge retail square footage and massive energy demands. Wal-Mart plans to reduce the amount of energy its stores consume by one-third by 2010 and reduce the packaging it uses by 5 percent by 2013.

Retailers and consumers thus appear to agree that quality requires environmentally friendly features. Many shoppers will spend a little more on a green product, an everyday decision that can affect the environment. Retailers are setting the stage, and consumers are demanding the products they buy are energy efficient and less costly to the environment.

Discussion Questions:

1. Do you believe their green actions are to satisfy their ecological conscience or because it means just good business?

2. Would you spend more money with a green retailer?

Mark Chediak, “Big-Box Retailers See Green as Ecoconsciousness Grows,” Orlando Sentinel, April 20, 2007.