Walmart Announces They Will Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases From Supply Chain by 2015

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At a presentation at its Arkansas headquarters, mega-retailer Walmart announced a significant new sustainability goal for its supply chain: Reducing the greenhouse gas emissions from the lifecycle of its products by 20 million metric tons (22 million US tons) by 2015--a figure roughly equal to the company's current annual emissions, and about one and a half times the company's projected carbon footprint growth in the same time period.

In doing so it has collaborated with the Environmental Defense Fund, and with ClearCarbon Inc., the Carbon Disclosure Project, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the University of Arkansas' Applied Sustainability Center to verify GHG reduction claims.In determining which product categories to focus on first, Walmart SVP of Sustainability Matt Kistler told Treehugger,

Over the next five years we're going to be focusing on certain categories, certain businesses where the biggest opportunity exists, where it's the most efficient, and most cost-effective to remove that greenhouse gas from that supply chain. Whether it be in apparel, whether it be in food, whether it be in home line products, we're looking at the category of products where there's great opportunity, but where its at a low cost to remove.

Kistler noted that while Walmart currently has emission reduction goals in place for it's own operations--including one of being 100% power by renewable energy and several others detailed in their 2009 Sustainability Report--this is the first "holistic, all-product supply chain goal we've made."

The key questions of additionality (would these reductions have occurred even if Walmart had not been involved) and accountability (who monitors this) figure highly.

For the first Kistler says Walmart is working collaboratively with its suppliers to cut emissions. "Carbon is a cost," he says. "If we can remove carbon from a supply chain, ultimately they become more competitive. If they can use less energy in the manufacturing of the product, or if the consumer uses less energy, they are certainly reducing their costs or putting dollars in the pockets of their customer."

Auditing of the program, ensuring that the reductions are genuine, will be a multi-step process: Both suppliers and Walmart will account reductions, with ClearCarbon reviewing them to ensure proper procedures were followed. Once those reductions have been verified, PricewaterhouseCoopers will assess consulting standards and whether procedures were followed consistently.

Touting the program, Walmart president and CEO Mike Duke said,

Reducing carbon in the lifecycle of out products will often mean reducing energy use. That will mean greater efficiency and, with the rising cost of energy, lower costs, making our business stronger and more competitive. And, as we help our suppliers reduce their energy use, costs and carbon footprint, we'll be helping our customers do that same thing.

More information about the program is available: Walmart Stores and Walmart's SVP of Sustainability Fills In a Few More Details on Their 20 Million Ton GHG Reduction Plan
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