Walmart's Super-Sized Climate Commitment Focuses on Supply Chain

BENTONVILLE, AR — [Editor's Note: For more on Walmart's climate announcement, see Senior Contributor Marc Gunther's post on the news and a post from Elizabeth Sturcken of Environmental Defense Fund.]

The world's largest retailer has set a new goal for shrinking its environmental footprint and is turning to suppliers to help achieve a 20-million-tonne cut in greenhouse gas emissions from the lifecycle and supply chain of Walmart products by 2015.

Speaking at a webcast news conference today, Walmart CEO Mike Duke detailed the latest development in his company's efforts to make the entire business more environmentally responsible. The cut in emissions is about one-and-a-half times the company's projected carbon growth over the next five years and is roughly equivalent to the emissions of 3.8 million cars during a year, he said.

"Today we're announcing an aggressive new goal," said Duke. "There are opportunities throughout the product lifecycle -- from the sourcing of the raw materials to the manufacturing of a product to its transportation and how customers use it, dispose of it and recycle it.

"We will be efficient … because we can find the reductions anywhere in the world and at the lowest price. We will be a leader in retail … because we will be the first to take a look at the supply chain on a global scale."
Environmental Defense Fund
President Fred Krupp, whose organization has been working closely with Walmart to craft the new target as well as earlier sustainability measures, praised Walmart's efforts. "This is real leadership ... Walmart is looking at the whole picture," said Krupp, referencing the firm's work to reduce emissions of its fleets and buildings, establish a Sustainability Index and increase standards among suppliers in China and around the globe.

Duke acknowledged EDF's counsel and assistance in developing the new goal (EDF has established an office in Bentonville to work Walmart at its home base), as well as input from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund in the company's broad environmental program.

Other help on the supply chain goal is coming from PricewaterhouseCoopers, ClearCarbon Inc., the Carbon Disclosure Project and the Applied Sustainability Center (ASC) at the University of Arkansas. The organizations will help identify projects, measure and verify reductions and engage with suppliers.

Elizabeth Sturcken, who is the managing director of EDF's Corporate Partnerships program and leads the team working with Walmart, said the company, its suppliers and the various advisory groups collaborating on supply chain emissions are venturing into "uncharted waters." They plan to share their framework for some of the key processes. "We're going to open this up to the world to make sure this is real and accurate," she said.