2.25.2011

O is for the Outdoor Industry Breakfast

The only thing weirder than the fact the that the Outdoor Industry Breakfast brought in WalMart's Director of Sustainability to provide the keynote address for this January's ORWM show .... was the silence.

The everyday low-price meat of their presentation hinged on sustainability programs and environmental goals that were established in 2005, as well as their progress toward some significant goals set at that time -- and since then -- for 2015.

“I had to bite my tongue,” said one attendee. “It was like listening to an abusive spouse announcing that he’s planning a 20% reduction in beating his wife over the next 10 years.”

I've definitely got questions about why the OIA would choose WalMart over other available speakers for this event. My guess is that it had something to do with the "inspiration through association" thing ... specifically, if the world's biggest retailer can get on board with a logical and structured sustainability plan, why can't the specialty retailers and small businesses attending OR?

The weird thing about that logic is that by holding up one part of WalMart's business strategy as a role model, it infers that you're endorsing the rest of the model as well. Even stuff that happened before they turned green in 2005. LINK.

But I've also got questions about why WalMart would care about the outdoor industry? According to their presentation at ORWM, they get about 600 requests per year for speaking engagements ... so some level of care is definitely going in to choosing when and where their employees speak.

Was WalMart's presence at ORWM because of the rising importance of a highly influential group of business people known as the "outdoor industry"?

Or was it because it was a full room?

According to Bloomberg, WalMart recently reported their seventh straight sales declines at US stores, as well as an accompanying, unequivocal statement from CEO Mike Duke that there is "no greater priority than improving US sales. (LINK). Didn't see any mention of sustainability in that report, btw.

LINK: Full video of ORWM Industry Breakfast with Jeff Rice, WalMart Director of Sustainability

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