SRI Cautiously Applauding Wal-Mart’s ‘Embracing Sustainability’

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks on the corporate front, and I realize I’m running the risk of overdoing the coverage on Wal-Mart’s recent moves. Still, at this point, this is big. CSRWire has published an article from SocialFunds.com noting that the socially responsible investment community “welcome[s] the potential changes while maintaining skepticism, noting that the company faces critiques on so many fronts that achieving true social and environmental sustainability would require a radical transformation.” At this point, I think this is the only really responsible position to take. I find myself very much in agreement with Conrad MacKerron, who directs the corporate responsibility program for the As You Sow Foundation:

“Even if Wal-Mart achieved 100 percent of its environmental agenda, it would be hard to see how a company facing serious allegations of unequal pay, low pay, intimidation of union organizing efforts, and no limits on store siting, sprawl and growth could get an SRI gold star,” Mr. MacKerron told SocialFunds.com. “It’s interesting that none of the proposals announced so far would restrain their growth in any way–in fact, they seem to be suggesting that their huge size and buying power will somehow bring environmental and social justice.”

These kinds of questions have to be addressed before Wal-Mart’s numerous critics can start to take anything the company has to say with anything more than skepticism. As I noted in a comment earlier this week, I’d love for Wal-Mart to prove it’s critics wrong — I just don’t see it happening…

Of course, I’m not the only member of the Sustainable Blogosphere chiming in on this: Dave Roberts at Gristmill has a thorough post up on the subject, which includes consideration of the newly-leaked memo on Wal-Mart’s health care for employees.

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