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Wal-Mart Makes Major Commitment to Sustainable Agriculture

Wal-Mart has launched its new global commitment to sustainable agriculture that will reduce the environmental impact of farming and cut food waste, while helping small- and medium-sized farmers expand their businesses. Under the new initiative, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers for the first time about the water, energy, fertilizer and pesticide they use per unit of food produced.

Wal-Mart’s goals include accelerating the agricultural focus of the Sustainability Index, beginning with a Sustainable Produce Assessment for top producers in its Global Food Sourcing network in 2011.

The giant retailer also plans on investing more than $1 billion in its global fresh supply chain in the next five years, and reducing food waste in its emerging market stores and clubs by 15 percent and by 10 percent in stores and clubs in its other markets by the end of 2015.

Wal-Mart also will help many small and mid-sized farmers in emerging markets gain access to markets by the end of 2015 through several initiatives.

–Selling $1 billion in food sourced from 1 million small and medium farmers

–Providing training to 1 million farmers and farm workers in such areas as crop selection and sustainable farming practices

–Increasing the income of the small and medium farmers it sources from by 10 to 15 percent

In the U.S., Wal-Mart will double its sale of locally sourced produce, with the help of Wal-Mart’s Heritage Agriculture program, and increase its purchase of select U.S. crops.

Wal-Mart’s strategy also includes sustainably sourced key agriculture products. The retailer plans to focus on two major contributors to global deforestation — palm oil and beef production.

The retailer will now require sustainably sourced palm oil for all Wal-Mart private brand products globally by the end of 2015. Wal-Mart says sourcing sustainable palm oil for its U.K. and U.S. private brand products alone will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million metric tons by the end of 2015.

Wal-Mart also will expand the already existing practice of Wal-Mart Brazil of only sourcing beef that does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest to all of its companies worldwide by the end of 2015. It is estimated that 60 percent of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is related to cattle ranching expansion, says Wal-Mart.

In addition, Wal-Mart has established country specific commitments. As an example, Japan commits to reduce in-store food waste by 35 percent and increase the number of produce farmers it sources from directly from 15,000 to 17,000.

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