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of packaging waste, a 10,000 mile supply chain that was inefficient and was creating water pollution due to runoffs from new construction. This was in a scenario when public awareness about the destruction caused to the planet by human intervention was on an increase (Refer to Exhibit 3 to see the growing ecological footprint of humanity through the years and the projected footprint for the next forty years). WMT had also met with sharp criticism about the way it related to the society. The release of the documentary Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,5a series of lawsuits, union campaigns protesting unfair worker treatment and community resentment against the opening of new stores kept WMT in public focus. Eric Orts, Director, Professor Legal Studies at Wharton School of Business6said:A lot of times, a big company gets seriously burned in its reputation, [which is] what happened to Wal-Mart. Although that criticism was about employment issues, not the environment, sometimes these things all go together and you get a bad reputation that starts to hurt you.Shortly following the Katrina disaster,7Scott gave a speech in the month of October that came to be known as 21st Century Leadership, where he laid out three goals for WMT—‘To be supplied 100 per cent by renewable energy; to create zero waste; and to sell products that sustain our resources and environment’.8Scott said that WMT was looking forward to becoming good steward when it came to environmental initiatives. In line with these objectives, WMT came out with specifics like cutting greenhouse emissions by 20 per cent in the next seven years, improving the supply chain by spending US$ 500 million a year to increase fuel efficiency by 25 per cent over three years; doubling the efficiency of its trucks in the next 10 years; reduction in the energy usage at its stores by 30 per cent 5This documentary film, released in November 2005, presents an unfavourable picture of Wal-Mart’s business practices.6(Accessed on 4 November 2009).7Hurricane Katrina, which occurred in the last week of August 2005, was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of United States. Wal-Mart believes that Hurricane Katrina was the turning point for its sustainability activities.8Sustainability Fact Sheet, (Accessed on 4 November 2009).at Alliant International University on March 10, 2010 Downloaded from
122R. NANDAGOPALANDAJITHSANKARR.N.ASIANJOURNALOFMANAGEMENTCASES, 6(2), 2009: 119–133and a 25 per cent reduction in solid waste produced by US stores in the next three years. WMT also spoke about selling organic food that would be affordable to the masses. Other initiatives announced by WMT included eliminating PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) packaging from private label brands, supporting and pursuing regulatory and policy changes that incentivized energy efficiency and renewable energy.