Tom Borelli
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Facing the wrath of labor unions, a new Democratic Congress, liberal state governors and city counsels, Wal-Mart’s CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. has a plan: sell more florescent light bulbs.

As part of an image boosting campaign, Wal-Mart is taking the lead on changing the way Americans light their homes by setting an ambitious goal of selling florescent light bulbs to100 million homes.

Wal-Mart thinks it can score public relations points if the company is viewed as a leader in fighting global warming by saving energy and reducing emissions of carbon dioxide – one of the so-called greenhouse gases. Although more expensive than incandescent bulbs, florescent bulbs use far less energy and they last longer.

According to a story in the New York Times, the genesis of the light bulb strategy was a result of a personal bonding between CEO Scott and environmental activist Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense at the top of Mt. Washington. When Scott came down from the mountain, unlike Moses, he had only one commandment: sell florescent light bulbs.

“Soon after returning from the trip, Wal-Mart publicly embraced the bulbs with the zealotry of a convert. In meetings with suppliers, buyers for the chain laid out their plans: lower prices, expanding the shelf space dedicated to them and heavily promoting the technology”, the New York Times noted.

The company also sponsored a “light bulb summit” where a diverse group of interests tried to determine how to drive sales for fluorescent bulbs.

Wal-Mart’s effort is an outgrowth of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) epidemic infecting the largest corporations. Responding to the heat from social activists and their political and media allies, companies are expanding their role to include social issues not related to profitability.

Given the starting place of the idea, it sure looks like Wal-Mart’s zeal over lighting is based more on public relations than on enhanced profitability.

Unfortunately, for its employees and shareholders, Wal-Mart’s emphasis on fluorescent lighting illuminates a much deeper problem.

First, it illustrates the company doesn’t understand the nature of its battle or the motivation of its adversaries. For the Left and its socialism leanings, Wal-Mart is a symbol of capitalism and free enterprise. This represents a mortal threat to labor unions and aspiring liberal politicians who value economic equality through wealth redistribution.

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Tom Borelli

Tom Borelli, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow with FreedomWorks.

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