The list of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)'s shortcomings is vast, and I won't be disputing any of them today. Instead, I'm offering up three Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) initiatives that actually do some good for society. Whether they are enough to mitigate the company's reputation in any meaningful way remains up to the individual, of course, but these are important efforts and worth some acknowledgment.
1. On-site green power generation Wal-Mart ranks first among U.S. companies for on-site green power generation. While Intel Corporation (NASDAQ:INTC) lays claim to impressive statistics like "100% green power use", it achieves that percentage primarily by buying renewable energy credits. Wal-Mart has 180 renewable energy projects around the world, including more than 150 solar installations and 26 fuel cell projects. The company's goal for 2013 is to bring solar power to 100 more store sites. Solar City does the bulk of the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)'s installations, if investors are interested in that angle.
Wal-Mart is currently testing several other renewable initiatives, including large-scale wind projects, micro-wind projects, and solar water heating.
Make no mistake, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) is doing this to save on energy costs, but the money that the company is plowing into renewables spurs innovation and will bring the costs of these technologies down for all of us.
2. Building efficiency It costs $400 billion every year to power America's commercial buildings and manufacturing centers. It's no surprise then, that electricity costs are the second-highest operating expense at most Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) locations. Energy is not only expensive, but power generation is extremely dirty, accounting for more than 33% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. So, what is Wal-Mart doing to cut costs and lower its carbon footprint?
First, it's converting as much lighting as possible to LED. The company first made the move to LED in 2005 when it teamed up with General Electric Company (NYSE:GE) to outfit its freezers in a Texas store. Upon discovering the new lights cut energy consumption there by 70%, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) decided to implement the changes companywide. From there, its taken LED savings to the next level, and the lights now appear on the sales floor and out in the parking lots.
Remember that as a building becomes more efficient, the rooftop solar panels can account for a greater percentage of the store's power.