90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Walmart Pushes For A Greener China

Chinese customers shop at Walmart's first Sam's Club in China's southern city, Guangzhou in 2009. (AP)

Chinese customers shop at Walmart's first Sam's Club in China's southern city, Guangzhou in 2009. (AP)

Digest this– Walmart is getting credit for pushing China towards sustainability. Or as Walmart’s CEO told a room full of Chinese vendors in 2008, “A year from now, each and every one of you will be more socially and environmentally responsible.”

Yes, this is the same Walmart that’s accused of littering the American landscape with box stores, and bullying vendors into lowering prices and costs.

China expert Orville Schell writes in the Atlantic that Walmart and China are conducting a “bold experiment in consumer behavior and environmental stewardship that will be critical to the fate of the planet’s environment.”

Schell says that people in China have been drawn to big chains like Walmart after rampant food safety scandals, like the melamine-tainted milk of 2008 that left at least 6 dead and 30,000 sick.

“It’s the brand names in China that people trust, because they know that companies like Walmart have a lot to lose if they get caught cheating,” Schell told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

And Schell points out that Walmart has been caught cheating in China– paying fines and temporarily closing stores for mislabeling pork as organic. They’ve also come under criticism for selling produce tainted with toxic chemical residues.

Yet they are viewed positively there, and are making some changes to the way factories work. For instance, a bath towel supplier to Walmart has cut electricity usage by about a quarter, and water usage by a third at Walmart’s urging.

Walmart is also relying on local environmentalists who monitor which factories illegally dump waste in the country, to make sure that their suppliers aren’t on the list. 

Schell says that no matter how well China does with its environmental promises, it’s still in their interest to create more consumers, which is not sustainable.

Guest:

  • Orville Schell, Arthur Ross director of the Center on U.S.-China relations at the Asia Society in New York

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

November 20 3 Comments

The Man Behind ‘Mockingjay’

Francis Lawrence describes the rewards and challenges of bringing "The Hunger Games" books to the screen.

November 20 Comment

Iraq War Vet Wins National Book Award For Fiction

The judges described the short stories in Phil Klay's collection "Redeployment" as brutal, piercing and sometimes darkly funny.

November 19 11 Comments

New Film Revisits The Jerry Sandusky Sex Abuse Case

The Penn State assistant football coach will likely spend the rest of his life in prison, but that's not the end of the story.

November 19 222 Comments

Without Slavery, Would The U.S. Be The Leading Economic Power?

Edward Baptist argues in his new book that slavery was integral to establishing the America as a world economic power.