Center Stage Podcast

How Walmart redesigned a sustainable supply chain

In 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, Walmart set audacious and aspirational sustainability goals: to be powered by renewable energy, to reach zero-waste in its operations and to sell greener products that improve lives.  

The national retailer enlisted a seemingly unlikely ally to help it on its path of corporate citizenship: the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). 

At first, the partnership was "controversial" within the EDF, said EDF Executive Director Diane Regas. "There was a whole host of questions, including what impact could we really have."

But, over their more than a decade-long partnership, she discovered that Walmart has been an "unparalleled leader" in retail-sector sustainability. 

"One thing we value about EDF is the science-based nature of their support," said Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart chief sustainability officer and Walmart Foundation president. "Engaging with people with deep expertise is important."

But, "anytime you engage across sectors, there is a cultural difference," she said. Because of its experience working with the private sector, EDF knew how to speak the corporate language to collaborate on climate change. 

Personal connection is an important part of the relationship, McLaughlin said. "For us to drive change, we have to shift mindsets and behaviors, whether of a merchant, CEO or a truck driver."

And that's one key to shifting the system of corporate supply chains. Watch a video of the entire session from GreenBiz 16 here.

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Technical direction for GreenBiz 350 by Stephanie May Joyce.

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