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April 21, 2012

EDF, Wal-Mart, Walton ties get major media brush

A week ago, The New York Times published a story on how an altrustic Environmental Defense Fund, encouraged by Wal-Mart, has been nudging the world's largest retailer toward more enlightened and sustainable opeations.

The report in last Saturday's edition described a scene in which Wal-Mart's CEO and EDF's president went Zen-like to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to discuss "climate change" and its effect on the sale of Wal-Mart products, including coffee.

Wal-Mart's motive for seeking enlightenment was a better image and market share; EDF's was selfless — a greener world. EDF, The New York Times reported, "does not accept contributions from Wal-Mart or other corporations it works for."

While technically correct, the story missed a key point, the reporter, Stephanie Clifford, conceded to an extent in an email exchange with the Gloucester Daily Times.

The $1.3 billion Walton Family Foundation, started in 1987 by Wal-Mart's founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and directed now by the second and third generation of Waltons, has been underwriting EDF's successful effort to replace the nation's mostly small-business, owner-operated fishing industry — especially in communities such as Gloucester — with a model that works like a commodities market, with fishermen's "shares" of an allotted catch traded and potentially concentrated in the hands with the deepest pockets.

The approach, which EDF and the Walton Foundation branded as "catch shares," was marketed in a policy paper primarily financed by the Walton Foundation and primarily produced by EDF in 2008. "Oceans of Abundance" was by a working group that included EDF's then-chairman N.J. Nicholas and board vice chairwoman Jane Lubchenco, who was chosen by President Obama to head NOAA in 2009, and has pushed catch shaers as the agency's national policy ever since.

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