By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Walmart announced a plan to reduce carbon emissions across its global supply chain today, saying it intends to shave 20 million metric tons off its greenhouse gas emissions through 2015.
Walmart CEO Mike Duke annoucing carbon reduction goals
The reductions will come from Walmart’s own operations and from “the life cycle of the products we sell,” said Walmart CEO Mike Duke, adding that the savings would be the equivalent of taking 3.8 million greenhouse gas-emitting cars off the road for a year.
“It’s a very sizable goal, as we often do here at Walmart,” he said.
Calculated another way, the reductions represent 150 percent of Walmart’s anticipated carbon growth over the next five years.
The reductions will be done as Walmart works with suppliers and will come from reduced energy spent on manufacturing and transportation; from products redesigned to consume less raw material or last longer; from the reduction of disposable products and the increased use of recycled goods, Duke said. “All of this is part of the life cycle of products.”
“We will be the leader in retailing because we will be the first to look at the supply chain on a global basis,” he told an audience of partner groups, reporters and suppliers during the webcast announcement from the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark..
Duke explained that Walmart sees these carbon reductions as compatible with business growth.
“There are millions more customers around the world who really do want to save money and that Walmart could reach. We do plan and want to continue to build stores. We want to add square footage, that’s the reality of our business. Yet we know we need to get ready for a world in which energy will only be more expensive. And there will be a greater need to operate with less carbon in the supply chain,” Duke said.
He said he expects that the efficiencies found as suppliers reduce their carbon emissions will result in continued lower prices for customers. “Like everything we do around here at Walmart, this commitment ends up coming down to our customers, and helping our customers around the world save money and live better.”
More sustainable business practices also can help shield customers from high energy costs in their own lives, Duke said.
“That is why America needs comprehensive legislative policy that addresses energy, energy security, the country’s competitiveness and reducing pollution.”
Several environmentalists and advisors, including Environmental Defense Fund President Fred Krupp, joined Duke and Walmart executives for the announcement.
EDF has set up at office in Bentonville, Ark., near Walmart headquarters.
The retailer also has worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council and World Wildlife Fund to develop its sustainability plan.
Tree Hugger and Planet Green co-sponsored the webcast. TreeHugger founder Graham Hill helped kick off the news conference by remote, with a video lesson on greenhouse gases, which he likened to a blanket that’s getting too thick and threatening to disrupt the climate humans are adapted to. He discussed ways products can be more earth-friendly, alluding to paper towels that can be ripped off in half sheets and proper sizing of food portions.
TreeHugger Editor-in-Chief Meaghan O’Neill talked with an invited panel about how business and sustainability can interact. A FoxHome Entertainment executive showed off a DVD package that has less plastic and Paul Kelly of Walmart-owned Asda in the UK talked about how more sustainable products can be low cost.
“You can decouple business growth from carbon growth,’’ said Asda exec Kelly.
Walmart, once widely derided as a merciless profit-seeker and crusher of small businesses, has in recent years taken a variety of steps, from using fuel-efficient trucks to buying more local food and daylighting its stores, to reduce its carbon footprint. Lately, it has been pushing its suppliers to operate more sustainably, and already gives points to products that come with less packaging and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
Critics says that Walmart’s push is more about squeezing out costs than greenhouse gases. But others, including some leading environmentalists, vouch for Walmart’s sincerity and believe its scale gives it an incredible podium.
“Walmart is looking at the big picture,” said Krupp, by leveraging its vast vendor network to achieve change.
During a mock interview with a Walmart executive during the webcast, Krupp said Walmart is showing leadership by acting in advance of government mandates to reduce carbon emissions and also throwing out a challenge to consumer products companies around the world.
“What’s sensational is that you’re (Walmart) going to launch a process, a race, a treasure hunt among your suppliers to find ways to cut carbon pollution and cut their energy costs.”
For more information, see the Walmart Fact Sheet on how it intends to reduce carbon emissions.
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