Strange Bedfellows: Walmart Canada Snags David Suzuki as Keynote Speaker

Walmart Canada has just announced that it is hosting a Green Business Summit which will bring together business leaders, government officials, NGOs and environmentalists on February 10, 2010 at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver.

What sticks out for me in the promotional video for the event:

 is the following quote from recent Right Livelihood Award winner Dr. David Suzuki, who Walmart has secured as the summit’s keynote speaker:

                         “Because business can change the world faster than anyone.”

What I am unclear about is whether he means for the good, or for the bad, particularly in light of some of his past utterances regarding the business world:

With CEOs looking at quarterly results and politicians looking at three- or four-year terms of office, the incentives for long-range thinking are not always clear.”

…the dinosaurs of the fossil fuel and other industries will go to great lengths to protect their interests.”

There are many other similar statements like this that Suzuki has delivered over his long and storied career.

In August, there was a fascinating interview between Suzuki and the other person featured in the video, David Cheesewright, the CEO of Walmart Canada. I found it very interesting to listen to Cheesewright skillfully sidestep Suzuki’s questions about growth:

“Does Walmart realize there are limits to the biosphere and how much you can grow?

“Is a company like Walmart, one of the biggest companies in the world, do you see limits to growth?”

Unfortunately for the planet, growth for Walmart is not all like the Central American example provided by Cheesewright.

In fact, strategies such as this are one of the driving forces behind vacuous consumerism and driving what people want, according to Suzuki in the interview. And in response, Cheesewright finally admits:

“Our business is embedded in needs, but we’re there to serve customers.”

Now while Suzuki might be pleased about Walmart’s three broad sustainability goals (100% renewable energy, eliminating all waste to landfill, sustainable supply chains), prompting his involvement with this summit, I am curious as to how his concerns about growth and consumerism have been adequately addressed by the corporation enough to justify his participation.  Editor's note:  Jonathan Ross's blog CivicScene is an interesting and engaging take on politics.   Read  Jonathan Ross daily at www.civicscene.ca and look for him regularly soon at the top of our Politics page.

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