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Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution

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What happens when a renowned river guide teams up with the CEO of one of the largest and least Earth-friendly corporations in the world? When it's former Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott and white-water expert turned sustainability consultant Jib Ellison, the result is nothing less than a green business revolution. Wal-Mart—long the target of local businesses, labor advocates, and What happens when a renowned river guide teams up with the CEO of one of the largest and least Earth-friendly corporations in the world? When it's former Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott and white-water expert turned sustainability consultant Jib Ellison, the result is nothing less than a green business revolution. Wal-Mart—long the target of local businesses, labor advocates, and environmentalists who deplore its outsourced, big-box methods—has embraced an unprecedented green makeover, which is now spreading worldwide. The retail giant that rose from Sam Walton's Ozarks dime store is leveraging the power of 200 million weekly customers to drive waste, toxics, and carbon emissions out of its stores and products. Neither an act of charity nor an empty greenwash, Wal-Mart's green move reflects its river guide's simple, compelling philosophy: that the most sustainable, clean, energy-efficient, and waste-free company will beat its competitors every time. Not just in some distant, utopian future but today. From energy conservation, recycling, and hybrid trucks to reduced packaging and partnerships with environmentalists it once met only in court, Wal-Mart has used sustainability to boost its bottom line even in a tough economy—belying the age-old claim that going green kills jobs and profits. Now the global apparel business, the American dairy industry, big agriculture, and even Wall Street are following Wal-Mart's lead, along with the 100,000 manufacturers whose products must become more sustainable to remain on Wal-Mart's shelves. Here Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Edward Humes charts the course of this unlikely second industrial revolution, in which corporate titans who once believed profit and planet must be at odds are learning that the best business just may be a force of nature.


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What happens when a renowned river guide teams up with the CEO of one of the largest and least Earth-friendly corporations in the world? When it's former Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott and white-water expert turned sustainability consultant Jib Ellison, the result is nothing less than a green business revolution. Wal-Mart—long the target of local businesses, labor advocates, and What happens when a renowned river guide teams up with the CEO of one of the largest and least Earth-friendly corporations in the world? When it's former Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott and white-water expert turned sustainability consultant Jib Ellison, the result is nothing less than a green business revolution. Wal-Mart—long the target of local businesses, labor advocates, and environmentalists who deplore its outsourced, big-box methods—has embraced an unprecedented green makeover, which is now spreading worldwide. The retail giant that rose from Sam Walton's Ozarks dime store is leveraging the power of 200 million weekly customers to drive waste, toxics, and carbon emissions out of its stores and products. Neither an act of charity nor an empty greenwash, Wal-Mart's green move reflects its river guide's simple, compelling philosophy: that the most sustainable, clean, energy-efficient, and waste-free company will beat its competitors every time. Not just in some distant, utopian future but today. From energy conservation, recycling, and hybrid trucks to reduced packaging and partnerships with environmentalists it once met only in court, Wal-Mart has used sustainability to boost its bottom line even in a tough economy—belying the age-old claim that going green kills jobs and profits. Now the global apparel business, the American dairy industry, big agriculture, and even Wall Street are following Wal-Mart's lead, along with the 100,000 manufacturers whose products must become more sustainable to remain on Wal-Mart's shelves. Here Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author Edward Humes charts the course of this unlikely second industrial revolution, in which corporate titans who once believed profit and planet must be at odds are learning that the best business just may be a force of nature.

30 review for Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    This book caught my eye in the New Releases, Non-fiction shelf at the library. I had read a few magazine articles that discussed Wal-Mart's environmental efforts, but I hadn't given it much thought. My preconceived notions of the company were negative, i.e., that they sold cheap stuff, put cost-pressure on companies that resulted in their moving production to the third world, cheated their employees, and put local competition out of business. But, I decided to invest the time in this read becaus This book caught my eye in the New Releases, Non-fiction shelf at the library. I had read a few magazine articles that discussed Wal-Mart's environmental efforts, but I hadn't given it much thought. My preconceived notions of the company were negative, i.e., that they sold cheap stuff, put cost-pressure on companies that resulted in their moving production to the third world, cheated their employees, and put local competition out of business. But, I decided to invest the time in this read because of the writer, Edward Humes. He had written "Monkey Girl," regarding the Dover School Board (Intelligent Design)trial, which had really impressed me. I was glad that I read this. The story goes like this: an erstwhile white water rafting guide got into the environmental consulting business, worked a personal relationship into a meeting with Wal-Mart's CEO, and convinced him that Wal-Mart would make more money if it fully embraced environmental sustainability. The CEO bought into the concept and made sure that the rest of the company did as well. As a result, Wal-Mart has fundamentally changed its own procedures, forced its entire supply chain to do the same, and is moving entire industries in the same direction. In the process, they are causing the entire business world to rethink corporate social responsibility. Don't think for a moment that this was done for altruistic reasons: Wal-Mart acted in an effort to increase profits. Part of the equation is that by avoiding waste, they save money. Another part is that you reduce carbon emissions by using less energy, which translates to saving money. The third part is that consumers, especially younger ones, increasingly care about environmental issues and will consider those factors in buying considerations. The final piece of the equation is the recognition that the economy depends upon the eco-system and that sustainability is key to long term profits. Don't assume that Humes is a Wal-Mart hack; he's very critical of many of the company's operations and points out several ares where it has failed to meet its own environmental standards when it is not profitable to do so. Still, for those who recognize that human activity changes the environment and understand that current trends are not sustainable, this book offers some hope that the garden might yet be saved.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This book really surprised me. I would not have thought anything good could come from Wal-mart. While the author makes it clear that there are still plenty of issues in the way Wal-mart does business, he also demonstrates how Wal-mart has committed itself to sustainability as a profitable business model. This change has the potential to reshape far more than Wal-mart, as this book illustrates. I won't say that I'll be running out to Wal-mart anytime I need something, but this book gave me a more This book really surprised me. I would not have thought anything good could come from Wal-mart. While the author makes it clear that there are still plenty of issues in the way Wal-mart does business, he also demonstrates how Wal-mart has committed itself to sustainability as a profitable business model. This change has the potential to reshape far more than Wal-mart, as this book illustrates. I won't say that I'll be running out to Wal-mart anytime I need something, but this book gave me a more open mind to them and I will not avoid shopping there as adamantly as I have in the past. More importantly, this book inspired and challenged me to continue looking for ways I can live more sustainably. It's not just about big businesses making adjustments, it's about each one of us. If you view Wal-mart as the incorporation of evil, this book is worth reading. If you want to see how a business can come to understand that conducting business in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner can be profitable, this book is also for you.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christina Dudley

    Rounding up from 3.5 stars. I've shopped at Wal-Mart exactly once in my life, not because I hold a passionate political stance, but because there has never been one nearby, leaving me with smaller big-box equivalents like Target and Costco. I was pretty impressed and pleased with the steps the behemoth has taken to improve the sustainability of our disposable, consuming world. It doesn't bug me that profit was a motivator--who cares what motivates, if the end result is good? And since just about Rounding up from 3.5 stars. I've shopped at Wal-Mart exactly once in my life, not because I hold a passionate political stance, but because there has never been one nearby, leaving me with smaller big-box equivalents like Target and Costco. I was pretty impressed and pleased with the steps the behemoth has taken to improve the sustainability of our disposable, consuming world. It doesn't bug me that profit was a motivator--who cares what motivates, if the end result is good? And since just about everyone with a mutual fund owns Wal-Mart stock, is profit such a dirty word? I would love a world of smaller, recyclable packaging and closed product lives, since a world of people buying less in the first place is probably not going to happen. Loved the insights into the dairy industry. Here's hoping all the good intentions spread and pay off!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Randy

    As an "open minded conservative" I get turned off easily by the more radical enviros... the communist ones, the uncritical thinking ones... Humes edges in that direction, But. He clearly understands and accepts the need for organizational infrastructure, the profit motive, and mankind's need to use natural resources to survive and prosper. This book examines the benefits of a grand compromise: the environmentalists holding their noses to work with the capitalists; the capitalists listening to the As an "open minded conservative" I get turned off easily by the more radical enviros... the communist ones, the uncritical thinking ones... Humes edges in that direction, But. He clearly understands and accepts the need for organizational infrastructure, the profit motive, and mankind's need to use natural resources to survive and prosper. This book examines the benefits of a grand compromise: the environmentalists holding their noses to work with the capitalists; the capitalists listening to the environmentalists and learning from them. The lessons for leading organizations, structuring them, analyzing their large social problems are not treated in detail. Enough detail is given to hint at the underlying changes the people and their business behaviors must have made.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    Surprisingly, I enjoyed this book. I went in with prejudice against Walmart and was pleasantly surprised at the efforts they are making to clean up their act. Some might yell "greenwashing", but pragmatically, I figure every little bit helps.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    I haven't been attending the Walmart shareholders meetings (if only my hubby had taken that job at Walmart's IT department thirty years ago, we'd be so rich) and if I read anything about this story it didn't stick with me, but darned if Walmart hasn't gone into sustainability in a big way. "Unlikely story" is putting it mildly, but one of Sam Walton's kids went rafting with a tree-hugger and it turns out avoiding waste and not being evil fits right in with the famous Walmart culture (the real on I haven't been attending the Walmart shareholders meetings (if only my hubby had taken that job at Walmart's IT department thirty years ago, we'd be so rich) and if I read anything about this story it didn't stick with me, but darned if Walmart hasn't gone into sustainability in a big way. "Unlikely story" is putting it mildly, but one of Sam Walton's kids went rafting with a tree-hugger and it turns out avoiding waste and not being evil fits right in with the famous Walmart culture (the real one, not the one you read about in the union propaganda). I knew that they had a big initiative on reducing packaging and making their stores more efficient, but they have gone way beyond that, not just to twisting suppliers' arms to get them to use less energy and treat their workers better, but all the way to attempting to assemble a Sustainability Index rating for every.single.product sold in their stores, quantifying the amount of damage it has done to Nature. Humes knows just enough about economics to scoff at Milton Friedman, but not enough to know that NOBODY has or can have the knowledge to figure out some abstract cost of all the externalities of a supply chain, even for something as simple as, to pick a not-so-random example, a pencil. But Walmart has a bunch of academics at the University of Arkansas and elsewhere busily trying. Humes just thinks all big retailers are bad and we should all go back to buying only what we can source locally - i.e., subsistence farming, which is not so good for the environment either and tends to lead to starvation and death from disease. But at least he gives Walmart props for trying, which if my facebook feed is any indication, most people wouldn't even if they knew about it, which they don't. It's a good book, though.

  7. 5 out of 5

    David Shelton

    Usually when someone hands me a book I've never heard of before I don't end up reading it because I've just got too many great books on my list. This book was an exception. It's the story of the 'green revolution' that took place within Walmart during the mid 2000's. I found it extremely interesting as well as very informative. I especially liked the perspective that the book gave to the movement which was critical as well as complementary. The author does a great job explaining the many things Usually when someone hands me a book I've never heard of before I don't end up reading it because I've just got too many great books on my list. This book was an exception. It's the story of the 'green revolution' that took place within Walmart during the mid 2000's. I found it extremely interesting as well as very informative. I especially liked the perspective that the book gave to the movement which was critical as well as complementary. The author does a great job explaining the many things that Walmart did over the years, and argues that their sustainability efforts were serious rather than propaganda. At the same time, he recognizes that their model is inherently unsustainable. No matter how many changes they make, they won't be a truly sustainable company, but simply a better version of bad. While this is unfortunately true, it does not mean that their efforts were meaningless. The work and effort that Walmart put into sustainability, because of its huge market force, has made substantial industry changes. They have played an instrumental part in helping companies to see sustainability as an opportunity for profit and gain rather than merely a nuisance and drag on the economy. The hope the author gives is that this fundamental shift which will reverse current trends and keep us from destroying nature and ourselves.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    Yeah, it’s better for Walmart to work on “sustainability “ some rather than not at all, but this author overhypes, I think. He does occasionally admit that the bigger issues involve overconsumption and certain other things. But stuff like environmental conditions in countries of production don’t get enough depth. It’s frustrating and ultimately unconvincing. Example: much fanfare about Walmart adopting organic cotton—cotton being, as generally produced, a very impactful crop in terms of chemical Yeah, it’s better for Walmart to work on “sustainability “ some rather than not at all, but this author overhypes, I think. He does occasionally admit that the bigger issues involve overconsumption and certain other things. But stuff like environmental conditions in countries of production don’t get enough depth. It’s frustrating and ultimately unconvincing. Example: much fanfare about Walmart adopting organic cotton—cotton being, as generally produced, a very impactful crop in terms of chemical pesticide and fertilizer use, as well as water. But to read this account, farmers can just switch to organic, hey presto. If it’s that easy, why didn’t they think of not buying expensive chemicals before? They don’t have pest problems that are difficult to control? It reads like the company had a hand in having the book written, for greenwash. Not sure if there’s truth to that or not. But too much is glossed over. On to better books, I hope.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Brent McGregor

    Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution -- How It Could Transform Business and Save the World A Must Read for Both Sides of the Aisle. Save the world? From what? These are issues that need to be explored while reading this excellent book whose author has just scratched the surface. By the time I was moving through Part III, it had become apparent that America was the only hope left in the world for any green revolution to ever take hold. Secondly, after studying this issu Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution -- How It Could Transform Business and Save the World A Must Read for Both Sides of the Aisle. Save the world? From what? These are issues that need to be explored while reading this excellent book whose author has just scratched the surface. By the time I was moving through Part III, it had become apparent that America was the only hope left in the world for any green revolution to ever take hold. Secondly, after studying this issue for years, Humes begins to make the distinction between what an Ecologist is and how that differs from a Conservationist. But, there are similarities more than not. “The Nudge” Although the worldview I have differs dramatically from that of an environmentalist, I still can empathize with what they feel is wrong in the world. Most of what Ellison and Scott discussed was a ‘confluence’ of ideas springing forth from similar desires, but disparate views. Environmentalists seem to many as much more emotional and passionate about saving rats and fish than a Conservationist. In balancing what is desirable with what is practical, this book details that struggle. Wal-Mart is the 12th largest economy in the world because it has the ability to say NO. However, waste and misuse still manage to creep in. Humes weaves the problems faced with being the largest retailer in the world with that of being a responsible consumer of resources. Oftentimes Humes makes it sound like Jib Ellison is outsmarting Lee Scott, but that oversimplifies what really took place. In Ch. 3 The CEO Whisperer, Humes outlines how Jib Ellison became a creature of both worlds, capable of speaking the language of Conservation to Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott, from the position of an Environmentalist. This is what many see as the biggest opportunity to actually promote an environmentally friendly economy using the free market. What Humes later details, but it needs to be spelled out here, is that only a free market can produce these results. Government interference through regulations will produce rapid short term results immediately followed by abuse and bloating. Just look at the biggest polluters in the world and they also have the largest government control (socialist). In Ch6. Because Everyone Loves a Good Deal, Hume fleshes out how free market solutions produce even more goods and services while drastically reducing waste and pollution. This sort of win-win solution is what they sought after. During the Katrina disaster (gvmt caused) Wal-Mart surged ahead and did the right thing. This not only improved their image worldwide, but also allowed them to improve internally; another free market phenomenon. Hume describes how “Appreciative Inquiry” was used to pinpoint areas of concern through the concept of, “What are we doing right, and how can we improve on that success?” As the employees of Wal-Mart felt more involved, not only as a company but as a community force, they felt empowered and motivated. This also allowed Environmentalists and Conservationists to meet on equal ground and build on success rather than snipe on how the other guy is wrecking the whole thing. The river rafting theme comes full circle as these two folks begin to share a vision: “What should the future look like for our children and grandchildren?” The entire concept of sustainability comes into focus by Ch7. Cotton, Fish, Coffee, and Al. Not only does Hume narrate how Ellison and Scott were able to bring innumerable concerns into the tent, but how they could now compete with each other to be better producers by being better consumers; less wasteful, smart, clean, and wise. Even though I’m personally bummed about the price of salmon, my favorite, at least I understand and approve. I’ll even look for the “Organic Cotton” label next time. Partly because how cotton is produced was a shocker, partly because for a couple extra bucks I can help. That’s the point of this book; we all want to help voluntarily. The last thing anyone wants is to have some self-righteous prig waving their finger at them. We all want to help. What we need is good information, prudent planning, and responsible production. In a word, transparency, something gvmts avoid vigorously. Indexing is that transparency, but I just skipped to the end. The Cow of the Future is a fantastic example of how gvmt regulation has all but ruined an industry that would help conserve if it could. With pesticides, HGH’s, vaccines (at least that’s what they call them), poor conditions, and a variety of other problems that plague the industry, the dairy farmers I personally know care deeply about these abuses but feel helpless to radically change anything; they are barely hanging on as it is. If Walmart’s influence coupled with the Environmentalist movement could overturn the almost century old regulations, and create more incentives and critical awareness, Humes describes how dairy industry could reform that whole tremendous up-chain & down-chain cycle, saving millions of whatever you want to name. The possibilities Ellison and Scott are tapping into are virtually limitless. In the end it comes down to profit. Good profit. Ch10, No Free Lunch at the Nature Market, makes it clear that environmentally friendly products come from the free market: “Yet Wal-Mart’s socially responsible pursuit of sustainability is grounded in profitability and a proven return on investment.” Wal-Mart cannot do anything good or charitable without being profitable. That is the big lesson, the reality, which Humes repeatedly states we need to understand. The “Sustainability Index” is the goal. Profitability is the road to get there, but it needs all of our help to do so. This truly is a must read for coming together and moving forward, even if the mention of AlGore seems absurd, take it with a grain of salt -- sea salt.

  10. 5 out of 5

    David

    I gave this book 5 stars because it changed my perception of Wal-Mart and how to effectively deal with some of the big problems we face. Although they still have major issues to deal with and are part of our obsession with "stuff", they aren't the environmental enemy you might think. Once shown that going green going could be a positive for their bottom line and just the right thing to do, Wal-Mart helped change the face of retailing in a positive way. When a giant like Wal-Mart reduces their wa I gave this book 5 stars because it changed my perception of Wal-Mart and how to effectively deal with some of the big problems we face. Although they still have major issues to deal with and are part of our obsession with "stuff", they aren't the environmental enemy you might think. Once shown that going green going could be a positive for their bottom line and just the right thing to do, Wal-Mart helped change the face of retailing in a positive way. When a giant like Wal-Mart reduces their waste by even a small percentage that's a huge amount. Getting the big companies to buy into sound environmental practices can have an enormous effect.

  11. 5 out of 5

    RNRabeler

    I’ll admit I’ve historically been anti-Walmart but seeing that the giant is using its market power to move retail and agriculture to be more sustainable and innovative softens my stance. Overall this is a good look at how Walmart has become a true leader in sustainability - motivating and requiring its suppliers to cut waste, improve efficiency, remove harmful chemicals and reduce packaging both because it improves the bottom line and serves customers better. It’s clearly not altruism driving th I’ll admit I’ve historically been anti-Walmart but seeing that the giant is using its market power to move retail and agriculture to be more sustainable and innovative softens my stance. Overall this is a good look at how Walmart has become a true leader in sustainability - motivating and requiring its suppliers to cut waste, improve efficiency, remove harmful chemicals and reduce packaging both because it improves the bottom line and serves customers better. It’s clearly not altruism driving the shift but good business but that’s fine in my opinion since the end result is the same.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Adrienne

    I was fascinated to learn of the beginnings of Walmart and how their operation succeeds in a competitive market. Force of Nature begins very interestingly but midway the narrative wanders off into the fact and figure type of non-fiction and leaves the narrative behind.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    There are a lot of reasons to hate Walmart, and while Humes skims over them he doesn't ignore them. The company puts smaller stores out of business, squeezes its suppliers so that it's tough to make a profit (but it's tough to say no to the biggest retailer in the world), doesn't pay its employees a living wage, faces more gender discrimination lawsuits than I can count... and the list goes on. But over the past half decade Walmart has also made some astonishing strides toward greening its busine There are a lot of reasons to hate Walmart, and while Humes skims over them he doesn't ignore them. The company puts smaller stores out of business, squeezes its suppliers so that it's tough to make a profit (but it's tough to say no to the biggest retailer in the world), doesn't pay its employees a living wage, faces more gender discrimination lawsuits than I can count... and the list goes on. But over the past half decade Walmart has also made some astonishing strides toward greening its business. The sheer economies of scale are astounding. Walmart has enough locations and employs enough people that simply turning off the lights in the vending machines in employee break rooms saves $1.5 million per year. Any small change the company makes has a huge impact. So when Walmart decides to reduce packaging, make vehicles more fuel efficient, use organic cotton, or make other changes, it can generate millions of dollars in savings and/or have far-reaching effects on the environment. Things get even more interesting when the company starts looking at ways to encourage suppliers to make their industries (dairy, fish, clothing, electronics, and others) more sustainable. Of course, the fact that Walmart can have such an impact is also evidence that the company is by its very existence bad for the environment. Walmart and other national and international retail chains depend on shipping supplies and finished products across huge distances in huge quantities -- and many of those items are things that nobody really needs in the first place. It's nice to think that the solution is to end the era of big-box retailers and go back to mom and pop stores, but that doesn't seem very likely given the current state of affairs, and Humes paints a pretty good portrait of a company using its clout to generate the next-best thing: a world where mass produced products aren't simply stocked on store shelves as if they sprung from the ground already finished. Instead, retailers like Walmart are taking an active role in determining the environmental impact of everything they sell -- and soon may be taking more steps to ensure that consumers also have access to that information to help make better informed choices. I'm not sure that I'm any more likely to shop at Walmart after reading this book, but it does make me feel slightly better about the direction our consumption-based economy is headed. My carbon footprint is smaller than most people's. I don't own a car. I work from home. I don't eat meat. And for the past year I've been buying most of my produce from local sources at farmers markets. But it will take a lot more than my personal choices to change the world... and while Walmart and stores like it are certainly part of the problem, some are also starting to become part of the solution... to a degree. Humes could probably spend a little more time in this book discussing the areas where Walmart has fallen short of its environmental promises -- and in other areas as well. But he does a good job of describing the process of Walmart's greening since 2004 by putting human faces on the story and profiling the people that are making things happen... or at least trying to... or at least saying they're trying too...

  14. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Escalera

    (Disclosure: I received this book for free in return for an unbiased review. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions that follow are my own) I have a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart. Seeing as I’m not made of money, Wal-Mart’s low prices, especially on groceries, are a great help to my family’s budget. Additionally, it is a good example of how capitalism and the free market works. Sam Walton started his business small and by offering consumers goods that they needed or wan (Disclosure: I received this book for free in return for an unbiased review. I am not required to write a positive review. The opinions that follow are my own) I have a love/hate relationship with Wal-Mart. Seeing as I’m not made of money, Wal-Mart’s low prices, especially on groceries, are a great help to my family’s budget. Additionally, it is a good example of how capitalism and the free market works. Sam Walton started his business small and by offering consumers goods that they needed or wanted at a low price soon built this business into one of the largest companies on the planet. However, its size has also been misused in a number of ways. All this and more is covered in Edward Humes’ new book, Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart’s Green Revolution. As the title suggests, Wal-Mart is not usually the first company that people think of when considering any kind of “green” revolution or anything that makes a positive impact on the environment. In fact, it’s probably closer to the bottom of that list than the top. In Force of Nature, Humes chronicles the Wal-Mart story, pointing out both the good and the bad aspects of the company, including its aversion to anything related to a “save the planet” mantra. In the company leaders’ eyes, such concerns were relegated to the “social responsibility” category and were completely optional. But this all changed – and quite dramatically – when Jib Ellison, a corporate consultant entered the scene. Ellison’s crowning achievement was to convince Wal-Mart executives – CEO Lee Scott foremost among them – that “making profits and saving the planet can—and must—go hand in hand.” Humes takes the reader through the process that Ellison followed, showing how small changes here and there added up to huge savings AND reduced pollution in some form or fashion. Wal-Mart began to use its formidable size and clout to push its suppliers to more energy-saving, trash-reducing measures. The result is a reshaping of entire industries to be more conscientious of the environmental effects of their business and the effect this has on bottom lines. Much of the book is a very fascinating read. It was quite interesting to see how small changes added up and how Wal-Mart is aiming for the harder-to-attain changes. Humes does a fair job of presenting Wal-Mart’s positive influences as well as the not-so-pretty side of the lawsuits and employment issues it has faced. Even though certain undesirable aspects of Wal-Mart’s business operations are discussed, the book often comes across as a PR effort trying to get Wal-Mart into environmentalist’s good books. And in some aspects, it worked. Perhaps the slowest part of the book dealt with the measures and in-depth analysis of Wal-Mart’s big push in creating a sustainability index. Even as an analyst who deals with numbers all day, I found this section to be tedious. Ultimately, Force of Nature shows that when businesses, especially ones the size of Wal-Mart, get serious about green initiatives, the result can be industry shaping. This is a quick and interesting read that certainly has me looking at Wal-Mart just a little bit differently.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    If anyone didn't believe that Wal-Mart could be green, it would be me. A self-admitted boycotter of Wal-Mart since approximately 2006, I spotted this excellent book while wandering around the library a few weeks ago. I just finished the read today and I highly recommend it. I am reconsidering my boycott as we speak. An excerpt: "Can Wal-Mart be sustainable? The simple and accurate answer is no... Has Wal-Mart led the business world toward a new age of sustainability - yes... The regulatory appro If anyone didn't believe that Wal-Mart could be green, it would be me. A self-admitted boycotter of Wal-Mart since approximately 2006, I spotted this excellent book while wandering around the library a few weeks ago. I just finished the read today and I highly recommend it. I am reconsidering my boycott as we speak. An excerpt: "Can Wal-Mart be sustainable? The simple and accurate answer is no... Has Wal-Mart led the business world toward a new age of sustainability - yes... The regulatory approach to environment has saved important parts of the natural world. But regulation hasn't made America green and sustainable in nearly fifty years of trying, because regulation is about establishing a floor, a lowest common denominator. Regulation begets, at best, grudging compliance... The regulatory model is rarely about raising the ceiling; merely forcing compliance is not the same as inspiring a race to the top. Sustainability requires both. Therein lies the true value of Wal-Mart's sustainability efforts and why they matter... For the first time, Wal-Mart's size and dominance are being put to use as positive forces for something other than (and arguably greater than) lower proices. ... It has put market forces into motion to green not just itself, but its partners, its suppliers, and even its competitors." Pages 225-229 If you've got a library card and a few spare hours of time (seriously, it's an easy read), do yourself a favor and check this book out. Even if you are already a Wal-Mart shopper, you'll learn a great deal about the history of this Arkansas company and you'll learn a great deal about what sustainability looks like in the practice of business.

  16. 4 out of 5

    John

    How An Unlikely Couple Transformed Wal-Mart into an Environmentally Conscious Retailer In a rather surprisingly terse account, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes recounts a most unlikely alliance between former river guide and environmental activist-turned corporate consultant Jib Ellison and former Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. That alliance has transformed Wal-Mart almost overnight into one of the most environmentally conscious retailers, with a global impact on suppliers of its merchandi How An Unlikely Couple Transformed Wal-Mart into an Environmentally Conscious Retailer In a rather surprisingly terse account, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes recounts a most unlikely alliance between former river guide and environmental activist-turned corporate consultant Jib Ellison and former Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. That alliance has transformed Wal-Mart almost overnight into one of the most environmentally conscious retailers, with a global impact on suppliers of its merchandise that is determining the fate of fisheries, forests, agriculture and industry. Humes demonstrates how Wal-Mart’s decision to embrace a pro-environmentalist ethos as its overriding company policy is sound not only for preserving the environment but also in sustaining and enhancing this firm’s economic growth; a decision that is being embraced by other American firms willing to change their business practices after realizing that Wal-Mart’s keen interest in sustainability is not merely one determined by environmental protection, but also one that is also promoting its economic future. Humes has offered a most riveting and persuasive account explaining why environmental protection shouldn’t come at the expense of free market capitalism, but rather, can be a most successful aspect of it. In other words, as Wal-Mart is demonstrating, what is good for business can also be good for our natural environment.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Brian Bigelow

    "Environmental loss threatens our health and the health of natural systems we depend on" ~ Lee Scott, former Walmart CEO during a speech to Walmart employees. Walmart has gone through myriad changes over the years. Some of the changes were due to lawsuits, others were due to bad press. Environmental sustainability was initially started as kind of an answer to all of the bad press. To be fair it was because of the bottom line that Walmart started being more environmentally aware. Reading through "Environmental loss threatens our health and the health of natural systems we depend on" ~ Lee Scott, former Walmart CEO during a speech to Walmart employees. Walmart has gone through myriad changes over the years. Some of the changes were due to lawsuits, others were due to bad press. Environmental sustainability was initially started as kind of an answer to all of the bad press. To be fair it was because of the bottom line that Walmart started being more environmentally aware. Reading through the history of Walmart you can easily see why they needed to change their business practices and create a new paradigm. It was very interesting for me to read about the sustainability studies that Walmart conducted. Some of the results of those studies were released to the public through various methods including the stores. Needless to say many peoples rechargeable batteries, first CFL's, first items made from recycled materials(shoes) all have come from Walmart. This environmental change, this way of doing business has been an incredible opportunity for Walmart. At the same time it has also improved profits for the company. Mr. Humes has wrote a very insightful book that I really enjoyed reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marya Kowal

    I was pleasantly surprised to see all the ways that Wal-Mart has been becoming a more environmentally responsible company...at their size, it's nearly impossible to be truly green, but they've made strides...important ones. This was a pretty even-handed book. Humes clearly dislikes many of Wal-mart policies, and points out their shortcomings pretty bluntly. He's honest about what they can and have accomplished, and how far they have to go. Aside from feeling brain dead after reading an entire hard I was pleasantly surprised to see all the ways that Wal-Mart has been becoming a more environmentally responsible company...at their size, it's nearly impossible to be truly green, but they've made strides...important ones. This was a pretty even-handed book. Humes clearly dislikes many of Wal-mart policies, and points out their shortcomings pretty bluntly. He's honest about what they can and have accomplished, and how far they have to go. Aside from feeling brain dead after reading an entire hardback about WallyWorld...aka The Evil Empire at my house, I'm going to feel less guilt about buying a good sale item there once in awhile. I'm still not shopping there on a regular basis...and neither are my kids...until they treat women associates with respect and equal pay, and until they pay a living wage. All in all, an interesting read for a slow week. And an eye-opener for the love-to-hate-'em Walmart crowd.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    I decided to read “Force of Nature: the unlikely story of Wal-Mart’s green revolution” to find out how the world’s largest company, famed for its huge big box stores, could be green. The book describes Wal-Mart’s enormous clout with their suppliers and ability to attract partnerships with unlikely companies and organizations. Readers will learn how Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts have led to environmental improvements across their own operations and that of their supply chain of over 100,000 s I decided to read “Force of Nature: the unlikely story of Wal-Mart’s green revolution” to find out how the world’s largest company, famed for its huge big box stores, could be green. The book describes Wal-Mart’s enormous clout with their suppliers and ability to attract partnerships with unlikely companies and organizations. Readers will learn how Wal-Mart’s sustainability efforts have led to environmental improvements across their own operations and that of their supply chain of over 100,000 suppliers. All while saving the company millions and millions of dollars and garnering a ton of free media coverage. The Bottom Line The book provided interesting information and offered accolades and criticisms of Wal-Mart.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    This book made me look at Wal-Mart in a whole new way. Sure, it's not perfect. However, this book convinced me that their sustainability emphasis is NOT simply "greenwashing" and in fact has the power to remake the world for the better. Two prime examples explored are local & organic food and organic cotton in their supply chain. This is a great book for anyone interested in the topic and wondering if there is anything decent about Wal-Mart. It made me feel no remorse about getting my $4 prescri This book made me look at Wal-Mart in a whole new way. Sure, it's not perfect. However, this book convinced me that their sustainability emphasis is NOT simply "greenwashing" and in fact has the power to remake the world for the better. Two prime examples explored are local & organic food and organic cotton in their supply chain. This is a great book for anyone interested in the topic and wondering if there is anything decent about Wal-Mart. It made me feel no remorse about getting my $4 prescriptions there. Now, if only Walmart could fix health care...after reading this I'd buy health insurance from them.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mbreaden

    This rather positive portrayal of Wal-Mart as a company is slightly misleading. The changes towards sustainability that Wal-Mart has made make Wal-Mart significantly less-bad than before and it is intriguing to consider how much better the planet would be if the rich used their economic power for good. It seemed like the author got so excited detailing the scope of Wal-Mart's unique sustainability programs that he forgot to address the main problem with the main thesis of Wal-Mart: More Everythi This rather positive portrayal of Wal-Mart as a company is slightly misleading. The changes towards sustainability that Wal-Mart has made make Wal-Mart significantly less-bad than before and it is intriguing to consider how much better the planet would be if the rich used their economic power for good. It seemed like the author got so excited detailing the scope of Wal-Mart's unique sustainability programs that he forgot to address the main problem with the main thesis of Wal-Mart: More Everything At Any Means Necessary. Still, it's a very interesting read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marie Louise

    This is a great book, no matter your perspective on Walmart. It offers compelling reasons for sustainability from a profit driven angle. Parts of the book were a bit redundant, which is why I didn't give it five stars. On the whole, I recommend this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Intriguing and surprising. I'm not going to shop at Wal-Mart anytime soon because of reading this. But this book is a fair-minded look by a good journalist of how corporate sustainability can make the profit motive a positive influence for the environment.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bash

    Way more than greenwashing... Have a look at this book before you call Walmart's sustainability efforts "greenwashing." You'll be surprised at how much has been done (and 5 more years of work have been completed since the most recent data this book has to work with.)

  25. 5 out of 5

    Shannon

    Recommended by the NYT review of books. The most evenhanded look on the greening of business I've read thus far. I am glad I'd read Organic Inc. before this, though.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lloyd

    Much good information here on the most improbable, and one of the best-respected sustainability programs in corporate America.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Chien

    Shows the power of working with a large conglomerate to move industries. Excellent example of aligning corporate interests with the greater good.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mary Owen

    Very interesting book! Interesting to consider how a corporation can be influenced and can alternately influence others' behavior.

  29. 5 out of 5

    N

    Read the prologue and epilogue. Interesting but very dry for me to read the whole thing.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hamza

    How big businesses can profit from radical environmental solutions

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