NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Big-Box Retailers and Urban Carbon Emissions: The Case of Wal-Mart

Matthew E. Kahn, Nils Kok

NBER Working Paper No. 19912
Issued in February 2014
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Economics, Public Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The commercial real estate sector is responsible for a large share of a city's overall carbon footprint. An ongoing trend in this sector has been the entry of big-box stores such as Wal-Mart. Using a unique monthly panel data set for every Wal-Mart store in California from 2006 through 2011, we document three main findings about the environmental performance of big-box retailers. First, Wal-Mart's stores exhibit very little store-to-store variation in electricity consumption relative to a control group of similar size and vintage retail stores. Second, Wal-Mart's store's electricity consumption is lower in higher priced utilities and is independent of the store's ownership versus leased status. Third, unlike other commercial businesses, Wal-Mart's newer buildings consume less electricity. Together, these results highlight the key roles that corporate size and centralization of management play in determining a key indicator of a firm's overall environmental performance.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w19912

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