by Mick Dumke
A couple of weeks ago, on the same day he received a prestigious Jefferson Award for Public Service, Mayor Daley was forced to shake off suggestions that he has been greenwashing the city's record on global warming. During testimony to a congressional panel, Mayor Daley tried to steer the criticism back to the Tribune, which had just run a story showing that the city isn't doing as great a job at cutting carbon emissions as it's claimed. "Remember," Daley said, "you can't believe everything you read in the newspaper about a public official."
Apparently there are other, more reliable judges of environmental activism--such as Wal-Mart.
Three days after the congressional rough up, Wal-Mart named Daley one of the winners of the 2007 Mayors' Climate Protection Awards, sponsored jointly by the retailer and the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Daley didn't win a first-place commendation--that went to the leaders of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Fayetteville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart's home state--but, as the recipient of an outstanding achievement award, he was one of the mayors praised for taking "proactive steps to address climate change."
"We're proud to be working alongside the U.S. Conference of Mayors to raise environmental awareness," Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart's executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations, said in a press release. The release added that "Wal-Mart's sponsorship of the Mayors' Climate Protection Awards is another
example of the company's commitment to local communities and to promoting environmental sustainability."
News of the award didn't come as a shock to 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore, who led last year's battle against Wal-Mart and the mayor over pay at "big box" retailers in Chicago.
"How nice of them to honor our mayor--that's a civic-minded organization there," Moore said. "We know clearly what’s at work here--they are continuing to try to ingratiate themselves with the mayor so they can move into the city."
Wal-Mart has profited from, and arguably contributed to, urban and suburban sprawl, which doesn't do much for the environment except chew it up. In the last couple of years, though, it's announced a series of eco-friendly policies, such as cutting down on packaging, reducing its own energy use, and trying to sell more low-wattage light bulbs.
Moore, though, doesn't sound like he's been swept up in Wal-Mart's green revolution. "I certainly would welcome any sincere effort on their part to address global warming concerns," he said. "But that shouldn’t distract us from the issue of them paying their workers a fair wage.""Whether it's the environment, product sourcing, healthcare, wages, community involvement or diversity, we are investing in the future," Wal-Mart says.