Walmart's Sustainability Initiatives Explained

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Image courtesy of Matt Kistler/Walmart
This guest post was written by Matt Kistler, senior vice-president of sustainability at Walmart.

At Walmart, sustainability continues to make us a better company by reducing waste, lowering costs, driving innovation, and helping us fulfill our mission to save people money so they can live better. In 2005, when we began our sustainability journey, we learned that taking a leadership role and collaborating with others that share our commitment and passion for sustaining the environment could benefit entire business sectors around the globe. For example, our decision to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent led the retail industry to follow. We used our scale to drive the creation of new energy-saving technologies, such as LED freezer case lights, which are now commonly used by other retailers. We also recognized the long-term economic benefits for customers by offering products that help them save on their utility bills, such as compact fluorescent light bulbs and more energy efficient televisions.In 2005 we started with three broad goals: to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, to create zero waste and to sell products that sustain people and the environment. We have several new commitments and are on track to meet 36 of our 38 goals by their respective timelines. For example, in 2009 we reduced our plastic bag waste globally by about 66.5 million pounds, which is the equivalent of approximately 4.8 billion shopping bags. This represents a 16.1 percent reduction. However, while we're making progress, we still have a great deal of work ahead of us, such as finding a safe and suitable replacement for PVC so we can eliminate it from our private brand packaging. We will continue working to make our own operations more sustainable, but we see a much greater opportunity in leading the development of partnerships with like-minded companies to make a bigger difference for the environment, our business and our customers.

This past February, we announced a goal to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally from the life cycle of the products we sell by 2015. With more than 100,000 suppliers around the world, our supply system is many times larger than our company's direct footprint, and the biggest, fastest and most economical GHG reductions are within the value-chain of consumer products rather than at the retail level. By working with our suppliers to help reduce the emissions associated with their products, we will also help lower their costs and create more environmentally preferable products. These new lower-cost, higher-quality products will end up on the shelves at Walmart as well as other retailers around the globe.

Walmart takes a comprehensive view of sustainability to include both environmental and social commitments around the world. As we become a more global company and expand our operations outside the U.S., we know that we must play an even bigger leadership role in helping address social challenges. Part of that commitment includes our announcement last year that we would help lead in the creation of a Sustainable Product Index, which will give manufacturers, merchants, customers and other retailers the tools to make more sustainable decisions. We are now asking our suppliers to closely examine not just the finished product, but every aspect and stage of a product's life cycle to ensure it is environmentally preferred as well as ethically sourced and manufactured. By assessing our suppliers' dedication to sustainability, partnering with university, retail, manufacturing and other leaders, we are working to create a simple label that will provide transparency that's not available today into the quality and history of products.

We believe the Index and our GHG goal will drive higher quality and lower costs. It will mean more innovative products that reduce carbon output, promote clean air and water and create a more transparent and responsible supply chain. We are proud of the progress we have made so far and will continue to lead on issues that matter to our customers, but we realize we still have much more to accomplish.

Read more about Walmart:
Wal-Mart: The Next Steps Toward Sustainability
Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever to Happen to Retail?
Walmart Announces They Will Cut 20 Million Tons of Greenhouse Gases From Supply Chain by 2015

Walmart's Sustainability Initiatives Explained
At Walmart, sustainability continues to make us a better company by reducing waste, lowering costs, driving

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