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"Meeting of the Minds" on Sustainability, with Walmart's Lee Scott and Other Top Thinkers

October 20, 2009

Matt Kistler, Walmart's Vice President of Sustainability, moderated a panel discussion on global sustainability challenges within business and society with Lee Scott, Chairman of the Executive Board and former CEO of Walmart, and several top researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, including:

  • Ty Henderson, Assistant Professor, Marketing, Red McCombs School of Business;
  • Jay Banner, Professor, Geological Sciences and Director, Environmental Science Institute, Jackson School of Geosciences;
  • Melinda Taylor, Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of Center for Global Energy, International Arbitration, and Environmental Law, School of Law;
  • Sheridan Titman, Professor, Finance and Executive Director, Energy Management and Innovation Center, Red McCombs School of Business;
  • Robert Hebner, Professor, Mechanical Engineering and Director of the Center for Electromechanics, Cockrell School of Engineering;
  • Eugene Gholz, Associate Professor, Public Affairs, LBJ School of Public Policy;
  • Michael Webber , Assistant Professor Department of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Director and Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, Cockrell School of Engineering;

Listen to the panel now (requires audio player).

 A few of the many great thoughts from the discussion, which covered such diverse topics as incentives, regulation, the ambiguity of societal sustainability goals, the importance of balanced approaches, the state of science education in the U.S. and the time of day when Texans should run the dishwasher or charge an electric car (answer: at night):

  • "I know it’s difficult to believe, but in selling compact fluorescent light bulbs, we have eliminated the need for three power plants in this country. Just that one item, priced appropriately." – Lee Scott
  • "What we’re finding is that the supplier in China who is dumping their chemicals into the river and giving people cancer downstream, is the same one who is running a sloppy operation, not producing good quality and wasting energy in their own factory--and as we go in and help those people clean up what they’re doing, we’re finding that they can actually lower their overall cost because how they’re treating the environment is a reflection of how poorly they run their businesses. The two things are not separate." – Lee Scott
  • “Another perspective that’s taken on this is to calculate the cost of taking no action. There’s an interesting report out of the United Kingdom by Stern that's actually made those calculations…Those are pretty sobering numbers.” - Jay Banner
  • “At some point, we're going to have to make a decision that we just can't consume like we did in the past. I know that's the kind of conversation that no one wants to have.” - Ty Henderson
  • “I think we should take into account the fact that probably the most important determinant of how much energy we use is really the way our cities are designed. American cities were designed in a period when energy was very, very cheap and water was very, very cheap.” - Sheridan Titman