Monday, July 2, 2007

Wal-Mart's Eco-Innovation

Innovation. For most of us it is the watchword for propelling our companies forward. Can innovation save the planet? What role does it play in employer branding?

Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) emit the same light as classic incandescent bulbs but use 80% less electricity. If everyone bought just one and screwed it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. The typical U.S. house has between 50 and 100 "sockets" (astonish yourself: go count the bulbs in your house). So what if we all bought and installed two bulbs? Five? Fifteen?

As a way to cut energy use, it could not be simpler. While it sounds like a promising idea, it turns out that the long-lasting, swirl-shaped light bulbs known as compact fluorescent lamps are to the nation's energy problem what vegetables are to its obesity epidemic: a near perfect answer, if only Americans could be persuaded to swallow them.

Now, Wal-Mart stores, the giant discount retailer, are determined to push them into at least 100 million homes. Can America’s biggest company, legendary for its salesmanship and influence with suppliers, also be eco-accountable encouraging 200 million shoppers to save energy? What effect will it have on employee relations?

Wal-Mart has been embattled over its workplace policies for sometime, and has had its share of criticism from environmental groups for it business practices. Now the retailer is funding programs like 'Acres for America' which spokeswoman Tara Stewart characterizes as the company's gift to future generations, although skeptics say that the campaign is nothing more than a public-relations ploy . "Wal-Mart thinks it can paint over its record with a nice shade of green, but that won't hide its true colors," says sierra club anti-sprawl-campaign manager Eric Olson.

These moves and its foray into organic foods are part of its strategy to improve Wal-Mart's appeal to the more affluent consumers the chain must win over to keep growing in the united states, all the while promoting and improved employer brand image to employees.
To inspire employees to embrace our corporate mission, we need to have a mission they can believe in and contribute to. Imagine the negative impact on productivity that a negative employer brand image has. Tell people where you work – or be ashamed to – and then try to get inspired to go there every day, much less make a contribution. Corporations are rediscovering the value of positive and visible corporate citizenship. Improving the world we live in while.

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