Book Review: Force of Nature
Humes, Edward. Force of nature : the unlikely story of Wal-Mart’s green revolution. HarperBusiness, 2011.
The day before Thanksgiving is the busiest shopping day of the year at the Whole Foods store on Broad Street in Durham. In recent years, there are so many customers that they experience gridlock in the store. An employee is posted outside the doors to prevent anyone from going in until another customer comes out.
Whole Foods is riding the wave of interest in sustainable products and organic food, which has become so popular that even conventional grocers now offer organic alternatives. Surprisingly, the largest seller of organic milk is Wal-Mart, a company that is not known for environmental sensitivity but should be, according to a new book by journalist Edward Humes.
Force of Nature is the story of how Wal-Mart, once one of the most unsustainable retailers on the planet decided to go green, not because it was the right thing to do, but because an energy efficient, low waste company enjoys a competitive advantage. In addition to reducing Wal-Mart’s own energy use and waste, the company monitors packaging, water use and toxic substances in their suppliers, who are forced to be green to do business with the retailer. Wal-Mart also develops partnerships with environmental groups and supports climate legislation.
The story begins in 2004, when Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, learns that 8% of its customer base had stopped shopping there because of the company’s bad reputation, including problems with local communities and the environment. White-water expert and sustainability consultant Jib Ellison convinced CEO H. Lee Scott that Wal-Mart could boost their image and their profits by eliminating waste, because waste in packaging, shipping and the supply chain costs money. Scott hired Ellison to transform the company.
Force of Nature is the inside story of how a gigantic corporation goes green. This engaging and hopeful book is recommended to anyone interested in the environment.
© Reviewer: Meg Trauner & Ford Library – Fuqua School of Business.
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