Walmart takes on Cape Wind. What Happened to the Triple Bottom Line?

Despite Walmart’s public embrace of sustainability, the mega-retailer’s actions are not always in accordance with “the Greener Good.” Last summer, Walmart took on the hot-button topic of Cape Wind’s power purchase agreement with National Grid, vehemently opposing the proposed deal because of an anticipated increase in energy costs.

Cape Wind, an industrial wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound, has encountered controversy from seemingly countless sources, from local community groups to prominent politicians on the grounds that it will raise the cost of electricity in Massachusetts, and negatively effect the peace, beauty, and real estate prices of Nantucket Sound. Nonetheless, the project’s backers obtained the requisite approval and permissions last April. The project is slated to move forward, assuming that Cape Wind Associates can secure financing for the construction, a move that requires lining up clients in advance who will agree to purchase the energy to-be-produced. Cape Wind and National Grid signed a PPA in May, but the contract is under review by the Massachusetts Department of Utilities (DPU). A coalition of 20 business, including the retail giant Walmart, have voiced their opposition to the deal, filing motions to intervene in the state’s proceedings on this issue.

Walmart representatives argue that the company has a right to weigh in, as it will be “substantially” affected by the state’s decision. Spokesman Bill Wertz asserts that Walmart supports the notion of wind energy in general, but has qualms about the increased price that Walmart will be forced to pay for electricity.

Walmart’s actions call into question the company’s motives, when it comes to sustainability initiatives. Although the company claims to embrace the ideals of sustainability, they only seem interested in green initiatives that result in direct financial savings for the company. But if sustainability is just about saving (making) money, it’s no different from business-as-usual-Capitalism. That’s the whole idea behind the Triple Bottom Line – profit, yes, but also people (human capital) and planet (natural capital).