At long last, Walmart has entered the sustainable blogosphere with a new site called “The Green Room” (not to be confused with our own green room project with BBMG). Walmart’s new offering is a self described “platform for an ongoing conversation with NGOs, suppliers, the media, and others who want to share ideas and partner with us in helping people live better around the world.” It’s simple, clear and a good start. Whether it becomes a deep and productive conduit for progress on sustainability shall remain to be seen in 2012.
The site is based around the three goals handed down by former CEO Lee Scott a few years back:
- To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy
- To create zero waste
- To sell products that sustain our resources and the environment
All of these are likely more theoretical than truly achievable, but having them front-and-center in a publicly facing conversation effort is commendable.
Judging by the comments that have already popped up, the blog is already being read by a wide range of stakeholders. Commenters seem to be aware of such achievements as installing skylights in stores, improving the range of organic produce in stores and many folks praise the general convenience of Walmart as a positive gain in people’s busy lives. On the other hand, an equal number are up in arms about planned obsolescence, greenwashing, destruction of small town America, Chinese labor and plastic bags.
Kudos go to the Walmart team for publishing the negative as well as the positive. It’ll be a long, complicated conversation, but one has to start somewhere.
I’ve been preaching the benefits of corporate blogging for years, especially with regards to the greater conversation on sustainable business. Why? Because it’s great stakeholder engagement - a primary pillar of the people side of sustainability. Clear, open, two-way communication is critical for any semblance of stakeholder engagement and there are few better platforms for transparent communication than social media. This frighteningly unstructured, sometimes casual chatterbox is impossible to control, but if honestly embraced and dealt with in an authentically human manner it can become a cornerstone of both CSR and communication on any issue – a real two-way feedback mechanism for company and stakeholders alike.
Hopefully, by embracing the transparency that their new blog will encourage, Walmart will encourage a culture of open communication that will bring sustainability issues to light more readily. We’ll be reading!