Walmart Helps Food Banks Go Green

The Walmart Foundation has awarded $2 million in grants to help food banks complete energy efficiency improvements. Sixteen food banks nationwide will receive simple, low-cost upgrades to lighting, refrigeration, heating and air conditioning equipment. The awards complement Walmart’s established commitment to fighting hunger. Last year, the Foundation announced a five-year, $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment to food banks.  The company donates more than 1.1 billion pounds of food that either doesn't sell, or can't be sold because it's close to expiration dates. About half consists of fruit, vegetables, dairy and meat — items that food banks say they're seeing more demand for.

Pairing energy efficiency with food bank support is an elegantly practical, simple initiative that provides great press for Walmart’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals.

“Every dollar these food banks save on energy costs is another dollar they can use to help meet the hunger needs of their local communities,” says Margaret McKenna, president of the Walmart Foundation.

All well and good, but consumers and media continue to take a hard look when companies the size of Walmart trumpet their CSR projects. Walmart has fallen under scrutiny recently for its underwhelming new healthy food policies.

It’s fair to ask whether or not a total energy savings that translates to the cost equivalent of 300,000 meals per year will make a meaningful difference.

Lesson: Make sure your CSR initiatives are worth crowing about.