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Walmart Sustainability Strategy Taught to MBA Students

The Walmart Sustainability Case Project, an in-depth analysis of the retailer’s effort to develop and implement goals of creating zero waste, selling sustainable products and using 100 percent renewable energy, will be used to teach business students and executives about sustainability and business development.

University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business associate professor Andrew Spicer, who led the Walmart Sustainability Case Project, will teach the full case series this spring in a course on corporate sustainability in the school’s international MBA program.

The Walmart Sustainability Case Project, which includes seven case studies, is based on 30 interviews, 25 of which were with current or former employees of Walmart. Professors from the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas and University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business collaborated to write the series of case studies.

The case studies identify specific decision points in the company’s efforts, including former Walmart CEO Lee Scott’s decision in 2005 to launch a sustainability strategy, the retailer’s search for sustainable seafood and how it came to define sustainable products.

One study looks at the mammoth task that faced then-vice president of strategy and sustainability Andy Ruben in 2005: to design environmental processes and goals for an enormous organization that employed 1.6 million people, served more than 138 million customers and tracked some 68 million stock keeping units every week.

A second set of case studies, which are based primarily on public information and have not been reviewed by Walmart for factual accuracy, also are included.

In October, Walmart announced a series of sustainable supply chain initiatives, including a $2 million Walmart Foundation grant to launch The Sustainability Consortium in China and a target for suppliers to use the company’s Sustainability Index. Walmart pledged that, by the end of 2012, it will buy 70 percent of the goods it sells in US stores and in US Sam’s Clubs only from suppliers that use the Sustainability Index to evaluate and share the sustainability of their products.

Beginning next year, Walmart will use the index to influence the design of its US private brand products, the company said.

Photo: Solar panels on roof of Sam’s Club, from Walmart

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