Walmart Sets New Sustainability Commitments

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Photo: Courtesy of Walmart

Walmart isn’t slowing down on its pledge to protect the environment.

In its 2017 Global Responsibility Report, Walmart promised to further reduce its carbon footprint and promote more sustainability in its operations and value chains by reducing emissions, eliminating waste and fostering supply chain transparency.

“Our aim today is to keep using our strengths in collaboration with others to transform the systems we rely on,” Walmart chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin said. “We believe that the value-maximizing strategy is the one that creates shared value—value for customers, business and society.”

In 2007, Walmart established three goals related to sustainability: produce zero waste, operate with 100 percent renewable energy and sell products that conserve resources. In November, Walmart CEO and president Doug McMillon introduced new targets that built on the original sustainability goals and outlined the company’s environmental commitments for the next decade.

Reduce emissions

Minimizing emissions and energy intensity associated with operations is one of Walmart’s sustainability initiatives.

Last year, Walmart was the first retailer to implement an energy-reduction plan certified by the Science Based Targets Initiative, a multi-organization partnership that helps companies establish greener practices in their operations and supply chains. Under the plan, Walmart wants to reduce emissions in its own operations by 18 percent by 2025 and work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 gigaton from the production of products it sells between 2015 and 2030.

Walmart’s core strategies for reducing energy use in its operations include scaling renewable energy, improving energy efficiency in its facilities, improving refrigeration systems and maximizing the efficiency and safety of its trucking fleet.

Eliminate waste

Reducing waste is also a core sustainability initiative of Walmart. By the end of fiscal 2017, Walmart diverted 82 percent of unsold products and packaging in the U.S. and 77 percent of unsold products and packing globally from landfills. With a future circular economy model in mind, Walmart is working to achieve zero waste in its own operations in Canada, Japan the U.K. and the U.S. by 2025. Part of this plan involves improving water stewardship in Walmart’s operations, including installing onsite water treatment and reuse at facilities and engaging in rainwater harvesting.

Foster supply chain transparency

While fostering sustainable operations is important, Walmart also emphasized the importance of having eco-friendly value chains.

Through its support of the Sustainability Index, a guideline that analyzes information across a product’s life cycle from sourcing to end of use, Walmart has taken more steps to foster supply chain transparency. In FY 2017, Walmart accomplished its 2012 goal of buying 70 percent of its U.S. goods from suppliers that complied with the Sustainability Index.

To improve its apparel supply chain, Walmart is working with suppliers to reduce environmental impacts and ensure fair treatment of garment workers.

Through its Factory Energy Efficiency Program, Walmart and suppliers have partnered to promote energy efficiency in apparel production countries, like China. In line with the Chinese government’s goal of reducing energy use by 15 percent by 2020, Walmart aims to have 70 percent of its China-sourced business participate in the program by the end of this year.

Walmart’s Responsible Sourcing Program also fosters the welfare of garment workers by encouraging suppliers to audit factory payment and take a risk-based approach when it comes to non-compliance issues. Walmart is currently piloting a third-party audit approach as well. With the pilot, Walmart is exploring the possibility of using third-party audit programs, including those that are internationally recognized, to address priority supply chain risks including forced labor and unsafe working conditions.


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