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Force of Nature: The Unlikely Story of Wal-Mart's Green Revolution Hardcover – Bargain Price, May 10, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Wal-Mart—the world's largest, arguably most powerful corporation—has long been plagued by terrible PR and a never-ending slew of lawsuits. Enter Jib Ellison, river guide turned corporate consultant, determined to convince executives that making a profit and building a sustainable business are not mutually exclusive and would, in fact, confer a powerful competitive advantage. Ellison has instituted a project at Wal-Mart called "The Index" that challenges suppliers to root out inefficiency and waste. Packaging has shrunk, saving millions of gallons of water, millions of pounds of cardboard, not to mention diesel fuel. Wal-Mart's sheer size, coupled with its lowest-pricing mission, means that producers are forced to take steps toward sustainability—and make natural, organic, and earth-friendly products widely available. Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Humes (Eco Barons) offers a stirring story of how ecologically responsible practices are increasingly benefiting the bottom line, and how as Wal-Mart goes global (and tries to lure back the more green-conscious consumer decamping for Target), the biggest retailer in the world is, slowly but surely, encouraging a change for the better. A fascinating, fair-minded look at the congruence between environmentalism and business, and the behemoth at the intersection. (May)
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About the Author

Edward Humes is the author of eleven critically acclaimed non-fiction books, including the bestseller Mississippi Mud, the PEN Award-winning No Matter How Loud I Shout: A Year in the Life of Juvenile Court, and Eco Barons. He has received a Pulitzer Prize, a Casey Medal and numerous investigative reporting and writing awards, and is a regular contributor to Los Angeles and Sierra magazines. He lives in California.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (May 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006169049X
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,121,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Andre Lawrence TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
2005. This would be the turning point for the way Wal-Mart and the "Big Box" retail chains do business. And, it all happened at that fateful meeting between a hippy, environmentalist and a straight-laced corporate executive.

"Tell me why I should care...when I just want to build a store?"

"Think about sustainability this way," the Wal-Mart executive was told, "Your company generates a huge amount of waste. Right now, the company pays people to haul most of it away. Some is recycled, and the rest is put into landfills: a growing environmental problem. That is the opposite of sustainability. The more sensible approach would be, first, to reduce the waste by making packaging and processing more efficient and second, to recognize that the waste has value that can be recaptured instead of dumped in a landfill.

"[If] Wal-Mart were sustainable, it would be making money from its waste, not paying to deal with it."

This got their attention.

****** *********

I'm intrigued as anyone about the philosophical re-structuring that has been taking place for the past 6 years at Wal-Mart.

Although, I must admit, I am not a Wal-Mart shopper, the idea that THIS company, who's notorious for its egregious business practices from exploiting foreign manufacturing workers to the friendly faces who greet you at the store's entrance by embracing a left-of-center environmentalist approach to doing business was downright appealing.

******* ************

Wal-Mart, as we all know, was the brainchild of Sam Walton.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While I am not a fan of Wal-Mart and wouldn't be caught dead shopping there, mostly because of their 'race to the bottom' price attitude. It's a culture of 'cheap' that doesn't do any of us any favors, making things cheaply in foreign places with sweat-labor just so we can have more stuff.

But, this book amazed me. If Wal-Mart were a country, it would be the 20th largest. That's big, and that's a lot of power, so when one man with a vision, convinced CEO Lee Scott that he could both regain a positive image for his company, and save money, Wal-Mart was on board. Simple measures like reducing packaging might not mean much, but when a giant like Wal-Mart does it, 4,000 trees at a time can be saved. And that's just one child's toy. Jib Ellison, a river guide from California, showed Wal-Mart how to become a leader in the idea of sustainability, and Wal-Mart actually took his advice.

Then came Hurricane Katrina, and Wal-Mart again stepped up to the plate with trucks of food, clothing and water provided at no cost to the victims. Store managers broke into their stores to hand out supplies, and were praised afterwards, instead of fired for their innovation and their compassion.

The author, Edward Humes does a remarkable job of giving us the details into the workings of Sam Walton's stores, from his first five and dime store, to his retirement. Every detail is not only covered into this book, but understood. Humes shows us the inside workings of this giant corporation, a view that I never would have guessed from what is seen on the outside. What I found most remarkable, was how one man with an idea can literally change the world, and sometimes save it.
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Format: Hardcover
An internal Wal-Mart study in 2004 found that 2-8% of its customers stopped shopping there because of its bad reputation. Wal-Mart had always simply assumed that its social mission was to simply offer the lowest possible prices. But decades of reports about Sam Walton refusing to comply with federal minimum wage or overtime requirements (until forced to do so), full-time employees qualifying for food stamps and unable to afford its health care coverage, workers forced to work 'off-the-clock' and/or denied mandated breaks (including lunch, bathroom), workers locked up overnight unable to leave for emergencies (intent - deter pilfering), foreign-made goods labeled 'Made in America,' sweatshop foreign suppliers relying on child labor, hiding evidence from legal discovery, hiring illegals as night-time custodial contractors, assigning unfit workers to physically demanding jobs to force them to resign, etc. had alienated much of its customer base.

'Force of Nature' tells part of the story behind how Wal-Mart learned that social responsibility could be profitable - both in terms of direct financial benefit, and improved public relations as well. First, initiatives taken by mid-level managers post Katrina brought enormous goodwill to Wal-Mart - handing out supplies, drugs, clothing, etc. without charge; offering space for relief worker headquarters, trucking in ice and fresh water, etc. Secondly a few early wins such as finding that reduced packaging size for toys used less cardboard and allowed more efficient shipping.

The 'bad news' is that 'Force of Nature' doesn't do a very good job explaining how Wal-Mart learned to take a broad, system focus on cost reduction - eg. its milk and milk products sector, not just milk producers, milk transporters, milk processors, etc., individually.
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