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Wal-Mart, GE CEOs: Green Is Good Business

Chief executives of two of the nation's largest companies say focusing on environmental challenges is good business.

General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt and Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott spoke with CNBC in Santa Barbara, California, at the Wall Street Journal's conference on creating environmental capital.

"I think it's important for companies to get ahead of it," Immelt said. "There's probably an 80 percent overlap between fuel efficiency and emissions reduction, so if you sell products today that use less energy, it's kind of a 'twofer' for our customers."

GE, the parent company of CNBC.com, plans to do $25 billion in environmentally-related business annually by 2010.

Scott also said his company has much to contribute to the environmental movement.

"What we're trying to do is to take waste out of the system," he said. "How can we take waste out so that the customer can either have the benefit of a lower price or not have the exposure of a higher price as energy prices continue to expand? That's what we're positioned on."

He says his company is positioned well for the economic downturn.

The world's largest retailer posted increased sales last month, figures that contrasted sharply with the retail slump reported by the government

"The customer needs us more today than they ever have," Scott said. "We're getting the additional traffic because people need to save money right now."

He said economic pressures are changing buying habits in many ways.

"Customers are buying closer to need," he said. "Valentine's was a great example: We did an overwhelming amount of our business in the last three days."