Wal-Mart Sustainability Through Lightbulbs: Flickering Out?

14 Pages Posted: 30 May 2017

See all articles by Marian Chapman Moore

Marian Chapman Moore

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Tucker Norton

affiliation not provided to SSRN


Compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) were a signature piece in Wal-Mart's sustainability effort, and although by October 2007, Wal-Mart's goal of selling 100 million CFLs had been achieved, the accomplishment actually highlighted how little CFLs had penetrated the market. With over 100 million households in the United States, this impressive-sounding result actually meant less than one CFL per residence on average. Wal-Mart had much more work ahead in positioning and pricing CFLs to make them a viable presence in the lighting category. Was the issue a matter of product, price, promotion, or positioning?



Rev. Jun. 25, 2014


Sales of compact fluorescent light bulbs have declined 25% from their peak in 2007. Sales in some regions such as Vermont and parts of Massachusetts have declined 35% to 50% from their peak…Only one in four bulbs purchased is a CFL…These numbers paint a troubling picture. In these tough economic times, CFL programs are especially important in getting consumers past the first cost barrier that often prevents adoption of energy efficient products.

—Richard H. Karney

Matt Kistler stared at the letter dated September 2009 from Richard Karney, products manager in the department of energy at ENERGY STAR. He wondered how to react (Exhibit 1). Karney's role was to support the adoption of energy-efficient devices across the country to decrease America's dependence on foreign energy supplies. As such, Karney served as a key stakeholder in eco-efficiency and had a broad view on the state of the nation's energy efficiency efforts. Karney's matter-of-fact assessment—“It's apparent the market is headed in the wrong direction”—caught Kistler's attention, especially given all Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., (Wal-Mart) had done to advance compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs).

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Keywords: sustainability, marketing strategy, consumer behavior

Suggested Citation

Moore, Marian Chapman and Norton, Tucker, Wal-Mart Sustainability Through Lightbulbs: Flickering Out?. Darden Case No. UVA-M-0801. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2974686

Marian Chapman Moore (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Tucker Norton

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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