The Big Dirty Hands Behind Wal-Mart's Greenwashing

Phil Mattera, the research director of Good Jobs First, reflects on the rise and fall of greenwashing during the 1990's and asks whether we are "now seeing a green business boom that will also turn out to be nothing more than hot air?" While a marketing consultancy company, TerraChoice, last year identified what it dubbed as "six sins of greenwashing", Mattera believes that Wal-Mart's attempt at a green corporate makeover involves two other sins. The first is that of "unclean hands." It is "difficult to avoid thinking," he writes, "that the company is using its environmental initiatives to draw attention away from its widely criticized labor practices." The second sin, he suggests, is the "sin of size." "There's a growing sense that true sustainability entails a substantial degree of localism and moderate-size enterprise. That rules out Wal-Mart, no matter what its CEO professes." Mattera also notes that some environmental groups form "partnerships with companies. Such relationships serve to legitimize business initiatives while turning those groups into cheerleaders for their corporate partners. Former Sierra Club president [and Greenpeace board member] Adam Werbach took it a step further and joined the payroll of Wal-Mart."