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Walmart Wants to Set a Global Example and Vows to Represent all Stakeholders

WalmartWalmart is a leading employer. And it’s also a leader in the area of sustainability. It just announced a new plan to achieve science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that conform to the standards set by the Paris climate accords.

Among other things, Walmart is doubling sales of locally grown produce in the U.S. and expanding and enhancing sustainable sourcing to cover 20 key commodities, including bananas, coffee and tea. The company’s announcement came in Philadelphia last Friday at its Net Impact Conference, all with a goal of increasing “trust and transparency.” 

“We want to make sure Walmart is a company that our associates and customers are proud of – and that we are always doing right by them and by the communities they live in,” says Doug McMillon, chief executive of WalMart, at the conference. “That’s really what these commitments are about. And that’s why we’re so passionate about them.”

It is sourcing more energy from renewables and has dedicated itself to paying its associates more. It says it is dedicated to doing the right thing, and giving people more access to more products. It says it wants to redefine what it means to do good.

Walmart is the first retailer with an emissions-reduction plan approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015, the company says. Under the approved plan, Walmart will use a combination of energy-efficiency measures and renewable energy to achieve an 18 percent emissions reduction in its own operations by 2025. Additionally, Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 Gigaton by 2030, equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year.

Is this the WalMart that you know? McMillion asked attendees. He says WalMart is a quite a different company from what people have perceived it to be. While the company felt it had good people doing good work, Hurricane Katrina caused it to reach an epiphany. It resolved itself to throw its people, merchandise and money to solving that specific problem. But it changed the company, he said. How can we be this company all the time? he asked, thus committing itself to such a standard, always.

He said that WalMart listened to its critics, who were concerned about its environmental and labor practices. Walmart has a platform. And so it chose to set three goals and to improve in the following areas: achieving zero waste, increasing renewable energy  and selling increasingly sustainable products over time in sustainable packaging. The company set them in aspirational ways and since 2005, it has been on its way to chipping away at these aims. It is serving all stakeholders, McMillion says.

On Friday, it set new objectives: Building on those sustainability goals it set in 2005, it shoots further —  to create zero waste in company operations, to operate with 100% renewable energy — 50% by 2025 — and to sell products that sustain natural resources and the environment. “Those aspirational goals have guided how Walmart engages on those vital issues and progress has been made toward them. The new roadmap builds on progress to date, but also broadens the company’s vision of its role in society.”

The record so far? In 2015, 25 percent of Walmart’s operations were powered by renewable energy, a significant step towards the 2005 goal. Going forward, the company says that it will source half of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2025, as part of a plan designed to achieve science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2015, 75 percent of Walmart’s global waste was diverted from landfills, the company says, helping to reduce costs to the business, customers and society. Under the roadmap, the company will achieve zero waste to landfill from our own operations in key markets, including the U.S., U.K., Japan, and Canada by 2025, it continues. The commitment is designed to meet or exceed EPA zero waste guidelines. 

McMillon also discussed WalMart’s $2.7 billion investment in its employees — money that has been targeted to education, wages and training. On average, a store manager makes $175,000 a year. It will hire for talent and train for skill, he noted, saying that his first job was unloading trucks at WalMart — and that he rear-ended his boss’ car the first day on his job.

“Today we are asking other retailers to join us in helping people live better,” he says. “Let’s use our collective power to create good jobs with good training that become good careers for all our associates … People will have a better shot of taking advantage of the opportunities in front of them.” 

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