Wal-Mart is sending its employees back to school – all 1.3MM of them – to teach them “how to better take care of themselves and the environment”. While this program is still in the planning stages, it seeks to focus on “practical advice” such as replacing light bulbs with energy efficient ones or improving nutritional balance in the lives of its employees.
It is easily to dismiss such a program as simply self-serving. After all, a healthier workforce means fewer sick days and reduced health care insurance costs. Moreover, being viewed as a proponent of the environment will improve public perception for this 800-pound retailing gorilla.
Yet, there is a greater lesson to be learned by all green marketers: the best salespeople for a product are those that are also its best customers. This is the “hair club for men” version of green marketing (Remember: “I am not just the president…I am also a client”). By sending employees back to school, Wal-Mart hopes to turn its employees into passionate advocates for everything from its eco-friendly products (Wal-Mart carries energy efficient bulbs) to its organic produce. This is a lesson that every corporate executive should memorize.