Center Stage Podcast

Walmart and Amazon on scaling sustainability

The world's biggest companies and institutions are leveraging their influence and scale to transform markets for energy, packaging and raw materials. 

Walmart, Amazon and the U.S. Air& Force are some of the organizations that are reaping the benefits of sustainable energy and operations while advancing a cleaner economy. 

"We had a lot to put our hands around in terms of big data," said Kara Hurst, head of worldwide sustainability at Amazon. "We had a lot of information that we needed and didn't have." Managing sustainability data spurred Amazon to change its systems, including packaging, to drive waste out of operations and use natural resources more efficiently. 

Hurricane Katrina in 2005 catalyzed Walmart's commitment to sustainability when the retailer since has used its scale to bring goods and services to communities in need. That was just the start of the journey. 

"If we can get ahead on sustainability for associates and communities we serve, it makes good sense for business," said Zach Freeze, senior director of sustainability at Walmart. As of 2017, the chain was 25 percent of the way towards its set goal of 100 percent renewable energy  a feat that takes cross-industry collaboration. 

Finally, Miranda Ballentine, managing director for RMI's Business Renewables Center (and former assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installation, Environment and Energy), framed renewable energy as a matter of security and resilience. Now, she works to help corporations buy renewable energy.

Watch the entire conversation from VERGE 17 in Santa Clara, California, here.

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Technical direction for GreenBiz 350 by Stephanie May Joyce.