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

Author

Listed:
  • Matthew E. Kahn
  • Nils Kok

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew E. Kahn & Nils Kok, 2014. "Big-Box Retailers and Urban Carbon Emissions: The Case of Wal-Mart," NBER Working Papers 19912, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19912
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w19912.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Piet Eichholtz & Nils Kok & John M. Quigley, 2013. "The Economics of Green Building," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 95(1), pages 50-63, March.
    2. Glaeser, Edward L. & Kahn, Matthew E., 2010. "The greenness of cities: Carbon dioxide emissions and urban development," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 404-418, May.
    3. Matthew E. Kahn & Nils Kok & John M. Quigley, 2013. "Commercial Building Electricity Consumption Dynamics: The Role of Structure Quality, Human Capital, and Contract Incentives," NBER Working Papers 18781, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Nelson, Randy A & Tietenberg, Tom & Donihue, Michael R, 1993. "Differential Environmental Regulation: Effects on Electric Utility Capital Turnover and Emissions," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 368-373, May.
    5. Hunt Allcott & Michael Greenstone, 2012. "Is There an Energy Efficiency Gap?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 3-28, Winter.
    6. Pope, Devin G. & Pope, Jaren C., 2015. "When Walmart comes to town: Always low housing prices? Always?," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 1-13.
    7. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
    8. Koichiro Ito, 2014. "Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 537-563, February.
    9. Duygu Turker, 2009. "Measuring Corporate Social Responsibility: A Scale Development Study," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 85(4), pages 411-427, April.
    10. Christian Broda & Ephraim Leibtag & David E. Weinstein, 2009. "The Role of Prices in Measuring the Poor's Living Standards," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 23(2), pages 77-97, Spring.
    11. Lovejoy, Kristin & Sciara, Gian-Claudia & Salon, Deborah & Handy, Susan & Mokhtarian, Patricia, 2013. "Measuring the impacts of local land-use policies on vehicle miles of travel: The case of the first big-box store in Davis, California," The Journal of Transport and Land Use, Center for Transportation Studies, University of Minnesota, vol. 6(1), pages 25-39.
    12. Okoruwa, A. Ason & Terza, Joseph V. & Nourse, Hugh O., 1988. "Estimating patronization shares for urban retail centers: An extension of the Poisson gravity model," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 241-259, November.
    13. Brounen, Dirk & Kok, Nils & Quigley, John M., 2012. "Residential energy use and conservation: Economics and demographics," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 56(5), pages 931-945.
    14. Tom Tietenberg, 2009. "Reflections--Energy Efficiency Policy: Pipe Dream or Pipeline to the Future?," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(2), pages 304-320, Summer.
    15. Thomas J. Holmes, 2011. "The Diffusion of Wal‐Mart and Economies of Density," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(1), pages 253-302, January.
    16. Basker, Emek, 2011. "The Causes and Consequences of Wal-Mart’s Growth," Economic Policy, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, vol. 5, pages 110-134.
    17. Lucia Foster & John Haltiwanger & C. J. Krizan, 2006. "Market Selection, Reallocation, and Restructuring in the U.S. Retail Trade Sector in the 1990s," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 88(4), pages 748-758, November.
    18. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
    19. Kahn, Matthew E. & Schwartz, Joel, 2008. "Urban air pollution progress despite sprawl: The "greening" of the vehicle fleet," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(3), pages 775-787, May.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. My Three New NBER Papers
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2014-03-12 18:11:00
    2. Three New Economics Papers Related to Mitigating Climate Change
      by Matthew E. Kahn in The Reality-Based Community on 2014-03-12 21:20:17
    3. Some News Coverage of the Kahn/Kok Walmart Paper
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2014-05-08 04:36:00
    4. More Uber Economics: How its Rise Will Accelerate the Development of High MPG Vehicles
      by Matthew Kahn in Environmental and Urban Economics on 2016-01-19 05:00:00

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Kahn, Matthew E. & Walsh, Randall, 2015. "Cities and the Environment," Handbook of Regional and Urban Economics, Elsevier.
    2. Daniel C. Matisoff & Douglas S. Noonan & Mallory E. Flowers, 2016. "Policy Monitor—Green Buildings: Economics and Policies," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 10(2), pages 329-346.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • Q41 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Demand and Supply; Prices
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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