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That the world’s biggest, most successful retailer is now striving to be one of the most sustainable as well is a credit to the vision and determination of president and chief executive Lee Scott. In 2005, Scott announced an ambitious goal: to transform Wal-Mart into a company that runs on 100% renewable energy, produces zero waste and sells sustainable products. Since then, he has won over many a green activist by committing to such specific goals as cutting the chain’s greenhouse-gas emissions by 20% during the next seven years and doubling the fuel efficiency of its truck fleet within 10 years.
By all accounts, Scott, 58, does not see himself as a tree-hugger. But there is widespread agreement that the path he has put Wal-Mart on could, given the company’s size and clout, have the same game-changing effect on mainstreaming environmental strategies that it has had on reducing prices. More than any other action Scott has undertaken, that type of rippling effect could well be his greatest achievement.