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2.3.4 Ecological Modernization and Sustainable Development

This book mainly focuses on the two Discourses which Dryzek identifies as imaginative yet non-radical ways to “dissolve the conflicts between environmental and economic values” (2005, p. 14). Both argue our capitalistic goals and processes can be modified to be ecologically sustainable and that externalities such as social and political problems can be managed. Both promise that dramatic and inconvenient changes in our lifestyles (e.g., a reduced standard of living, reduced consumption patterns) and basic institutions are unnecessary. But meanwhile the capitalist version of the good life based on consumption and acquisition continues to outpace our shared concern for the common good. Will these Discourses stimulate enough solutions to equip us for the impending climate changes? Probably not, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try.

Sam's Club and Communities Brian Sheehan, former Sustainability Manager at Sam's Club, appeared reflective when we met over a cup of coffee one late afternoon at the University of Arkansas campus. Brian had worked in sustainability for a city before being hired by Sam's Club in 2011. When asked to discuss sustainability, he said:

Walmart has its three aspirational sustainability goals. Personally, I think those are great and worthy goals to achieve, but that does not get you to sustainability.. .. Some people would be surprised that even if you are powered 100 % by renewable energy and diverting 100 % of your waste from landfills and you are selling products that help sustain people and the environment, there is always more that you could do. So how are you helping communities thrive? If Walmart has limited its impact to almost zero, is that still enough for all the communities that it operates in to be sustainable?

Sam's Club is a US chain of membership-only retail warehouse clubs owned and operated by Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., founded in 1983 and named after Walmart founder Sam Walton. As of 2012, the Sam's Club chain served 47 million US and Puerto Rican members and was the 8th largest US retailer. Over 2.2 million associates globally work at Walmart and Sam's Club combined. The aspirational goals for both organizations combined are to divert 100 % of store waste from landfills, utilize 100 % renewable energy, and sell products to sustain people and the environment. Their sustainability-related mission statement states, “We're working to improve the quality of life now and for generations to come by operating our business in environmentally responsible ways and by offering Members sustainable products.”

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