Environmental Defense Fund Is Winning Over Walmart’s Chinese Factories

Fast Company reports on how the Environmental Defense Fund is working with Walmart to help the company carry out its pledge to reduce energy use in its top China factories by 20% by 2012:

The Environmental Defense Fund, a group that often works with Walmart, stepped in to teach Chinese suppliers how to clean up their act. Over the past year and a half, the EDF has visited hundreds of Walmart’s factories, advising each of them on how to become more efficient.

“Our expectation was that this was going to be a bit of a battle. The first few minutes of a visit are that way,” concedes Andrew Hutson, the project manager for corporate partnerships at the EDF. “They let us in the door because we’re with Walmart, they learn that we’re independent of Walmart–then they understand that these things we’re suggesting are quite good for business. These are things that are going to save you money, improve productivity. The conversation quickly changes to how we can get this done.”

Walmart’s factories produce a variety of goods, of course, so energy-saving tactics are different at each location. For a toy manufacturer, the biggest energy hog might be plastic injection molding machines. So the EDF could dramatically slash energy use by tweaking those machines. “With factories that truly understand the opportunity, progress has been pretty rapid,” Hutson says.