An environmental group led by former President Bill Clinton gave a nod Thursday to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., announcing that it would work with the world's largest retailer to help cities around the world spend less for "green" technologies such as energy-efficient street lamps.
The Clinton Climate Initiative also said it would extend its programs and purchasing consortium to all 1,100 cities represented by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
"Climate change is a global issue that we must address immediately if we are to reverse its catastrophic effects," Clinton said in a statement to the mayors group, which was meeting in Seattle. "Together, I hope that we can have a measurable impact on greenhouse gas emissions around the world."
Wal-Mart said the new partnership would examine technologies such as energy-saving light-emitting diodes for street lamps and parking lots, and more energy-efficient building materials and heating and air-conditioning systems.
The combination of the cities and the retailer should mean lower costs for consumers and more incentive for companies to produce environmentally friendly products and systems, said Wal-Mart's Andy Ruben, who helped develop the partnership.
"Whether you're talking about better design or putting volume together to create more scale, it drives the technology we're looking at, which means savings for the planet and savings for our business," Ruben said.
The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, which has ties to Clinton dating to his days as governor of that state, pledged in 2005 to spend $500 million annually to reach specific environmental goals, including doubling the efficiency of its truck fleet by 2015 and cutting greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2012.
Since then, Wal-Mart has also worked to bring a green message to the 130 million customers worldwide who visit its stores every week, touting the energy savings of compact fluorescent lamp lightbulbs and expanding offerings of organic cotton apparel.
Since 2006, Clinton's group has worked with a group of 40 of the world's largest cities, including Los Angeles, that pledged to reduce carbon emissions and improve energy efficiency.
"This shows what can be achieved when business, government and the nonprofit sector work together on some of the biggest challenges facing the world today," Wal-Mart Chief Executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said in a statement. "By combining our resources, we can help drive innovation, create new technology markets and ultimately reduce this country's dependence on foreign oil."