For Walmart Mexico, Sustainability Is a Group Effort


Image courtesy of Walmart Mexico and Central America.
This guest post was written by Manuel Gomez Pena, Director of Sustainability for Walmart Mexico and Central America.

Five years ago, Walmart began efforts to become a more sustainable company, not only in the U.S., but everywhere we operate around the world. At Walmart Mexico and Central America, we're working toward three global goals to create zero waste, be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, and sell products that sustain people and the environment.

We're also working on sharing best practices among our suppliers, industry experts, government and non-government organizations. We haven't found all the answers, but we can bring others together to find solutions to sustainability issues facing everyone.Because collaboration is the best way to accelerate development, Walmart Mexico and Central America hosted a two-day sustainability forum this month—"Juntos por un Planeta Mejor (Together for a Better Planet)." This event offered the opportunity for us to learn from our suppliers, and for our suppliers to learn from each other. We're all striving to save our natural resources, and we must work together in order to be successful.

More than 120 companies, including other retailers, specialized suppliers and 50 Walmart suppliers, gathered in Mexico City to share our collective knowledge and learn sustainable practices from one another that have already proven to be technologically and financially viable.

Suppliers shared how they're saving water and energy, improving products and packaging and how they're helping poor rural communities through sustainable agriculture initiatives. We have 370 water treatment plants in Mexico to help us save water, and through this event, we learned about new compact alternatives to water treatment plants that we plan to research and could potentially implement. This is just one example of how sharing knowledge across the retail and manufacturing industry can lead to money-saving, resource-preserving developments.

A Lot of Work Left to Do

We've made progress since our sustainability journey began, but we still have work ahead of us.

For example, last year in Oaxaca, Mexico's first wind energy park for a retailer was built and began supplying all of its clean energy to 348 Walmart Mexico units. Currently, 18 percent of the energy we consume in Mexico is supplied by this wind farm. This is an exciting first step, but we realize there is still a long road in front of us before we are supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. So at our sustainability forum, we announced new mid-point goals regarding energy, waste, water and packaging that will lead us to eventually reach our three broader global goals.

By the end of 2015, we aim to limit our greenhouse gas emissions growth to half the rate of our sales floor expansion. We are committed to being supplied 50 percent by renewable energy and reducing our energy consumption by 13 percent over our 2009 consumption.

We will ensure that 80 percent of waste is recycled or reused. Additionally, our goal is to reuse 60 percent of treated water and reduce all water consumption by 30 percent over our 2008 consumption. And we will implement packaging scorecards in 80 percent of our top-selling products. These are aggressive goals, but we are confident that we can meet them within the next five years.

Partnering for Success

To further solidify our commitment to sharing ideas and expertise across the industry, together with Minister of the Environment Juan Elvira Quesada, and suppliers, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Kimberly-Clark, Bimbo, La Huerta and Sigma Alimentos, we signed an agreement to promote the "Environmental Leadership for Competitiveness" program for suppliers.

Under this agreement, we will promote sustainability within the supply chain by providing technical assistance to small and medium sized suppliers that sell directly to Walmart or to our suppliers.

Participants will be able to attend workshops to learn more about saving energy and water, reducing waste and generating savings through efficiency. Our hope is that, along with support from the government, suppliers will make significant changes within two years to make their companies more sustainable. By doing this, suppliers' costs will decrease and this will ultimately benefit not only the environment, but also customers who want better, lower cost products.

Our sustainability forum was the beginning of a new relationship with our suppliers, and we will continue to exchange ideas and best practices through our sustainability website, www.porunplanetamejor.mx. We're getting positive feedback from our supplier community and we hope that events such as these will bring a renewed sense of enthusiasm and excitement about working together toward sustainable change.

Read more about Walmart:
Walmart's Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever to Happen to Retail?
Walmart Adding Thin-Film Solar Panels On 20-30 More Stores
Walmart Announces They Will Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases From Supply Chain by 2015

Tags: Consumerism | Corporate Responsibility | Walmart