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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Working with Walmart
March 22, 2010 - 4:24pm

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a big fan of Walmart's big box business model. I don't care for its impacts on economic sustainability, social sustainability, or ecological sustainability. (Energy efficient lighting and supply chain carbon reductions notwithstanding, the climate is definitely worse off because of Walmart's impact on the retail sector.)

But today I learned more about the SEEP program Walmart runs, and I have to give credit where credit is due.

SEEP stands for their Supplier Energy Efficiency Program, and when it first started out, that's what it was. Walmart consultants would work with companies which supplied it goods and services, in order to help them increase energy efficiency and thereby decrease greenhouse gas emissions. Walmart, of course, took full credit for GHG reductions achieved, which gave the program a noticeable flavor of "greenwashing".

But according to an item posted at, Walmart is now offering its range of consulting services to companies not in its supply chain. And part of the package offered is access to energy-efficient technologies at the same price that Walmart, itself, pays.

Now, I don't know what kind of discount Walmart gets when buying (for example) lighting fixtures, but based on the way they negotiate every other supply contract (and they probably have more suppliers than anyone else), I have to believe that it's considerable.

For small colleges and mid-sized schools, the SEEP program would seem to be worth a look. Even state schools, which can purchase off of government supply schedules, might do better going through Walmart. Costs look to be low, risks seem minimal (you have to pay for the engineering study if you don't go through with projects which clear a pre-defined cost hurdle rate), and disruption to ongoing operations is said to be small.

If your school has energy service companies beating down your doors with offers of no-cost performance contracts, Walmart's program probably doesn't change your situation any. But if your campus is too small to be attracting other major players in the energy efficiency game, a call to Walmart (!) might just be in order.


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