web analytics
Oct 122012

Andrew Winston

Walmart’s efforts to green its supply chain are about to get much more effective. Sustainability will now play a role in its merchants’ performance reviews, which help determine pay raises and potential for future promotion. This is a big deal: these merchants are high-level managers responsible for multibillion-dollar buying decisions. They’re the people who determine which products appear on the shelves of the world’s largest retailer.

Some quick background: Walmart deserves praise for its industry-leading sustainability successes, such as improving its fleet fuel efficiency by 69% and becoming the nation’s leading commercial buyer of solar energy. The company’s most important sustainability initiative — the pressure it puts on its 100,000 suppliers to improve their environmental performance — has changed how thousands of products are made, packaged and sold.


For the past five years, Walmart has built sturdy scaffolding around what could be a world-beating green supply chain, including:

  • Developing Sustainable Value Networks, which bring together major suppliers with cross-functional internal teams to tackle issues from packaging to waste to energy use.
  • Asking 100,000 suppliers to answer and provide data on 15 environmental impact questions.
  • Building the Sustainability Consortium (TSC) with many of the world’s largest consumer products companies and big retail competitors. TSC created metrics to evaluate suppliers and their products on environmental and social performance, and Walmart has integrated these metrics into its own supplier Sustainability Index and scorecards.

But greening its supply chain has been a tough task. Suppliers have repeatedly voiced one critical and legitimate complaint: Walmart’s merchants don’t really take sustainability into account when they make buying decisions. This flaw in Walmart’s green supply chain program has threatened to undermine the foundations of a highly-touted and important initiative.

In essence, the suppliers and other stakeholders have told the company, according to Walmart’s Sustainability director Jeff Rice, “It’s great to ask your suppliers questions, but it only matters if you do something with the information.” In their view, the company has continued to choose the products it sells primarily on price.

But now, in addition to Walmart’s long-standing, laser-like focus on cost, its merchants will have to consider sustainability in their buying decisions — or risk a weak performance review. And all because of a simple shift in incentives.

Jeff Rice gave me a great example of how this change is already working, in the form of how Walmart selects the personal computers it sells. Laptops use a lot of energy over their lifetime, and a big driver of energy use is the default setting on power management. These settings determine how fast (if at all) the computer goes to sleep or when the screen dims. Using the index scorecards I mentioned above, Walmart’s laptop buyer identified energy use as the biggest determinant of the computer’s total lifecycle footprint and emissions.

The buyer then discovered that only 30% of the laptops sold at Walmart ship with the advanced energy-saving settings in place. To compound the problem, the company’s research shows that most consumers leave such settings at factory default. So the laptop buyer set a new goal for herself: to increase the percentage of laptops sold with the advanced power settings from 30% to 100% by this Christmas. This single product shift will reduce CO2 emissions by hundreds of thousands of metric tons and save customers money on their electric bills.

Rice told me that performance evaluations for buyers only include a handful of targets, and all are discussed thoroughly at annual reviews. Sustainability performance won’t determine the entire evaluation, of course, but it’s high profile enough that it should affect behavior.

Incentives matter and cultures shift over time. Hard-won operational changes like modifying performance reviews may not be sexy, but the results can be profound. And when it’s the world’s largest retailer changing its buying criteria, the ripples will likely be felt around the world.

(This post first appeared at Harvard Business Online.)

Sep 122012

From Yale Environment 360

A Kohl's store in Laguna sports a solar roof (Photo: Kohl's)

A growing number of major U.S. companies, led by the nation’s largest big-box retailers, are installing rooftop solar power systems to help cut energy costs and increase profits, a new report says.

According to the report, released by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Vote Solar Initiative, more than 3,600 non-residential systems were activated in the U.S. during the first half of 2012, led by retail giants such as Walmart, Costco, and Kohl’s department stores, all of which have sharply increased their solar power installations in recent months.

Among the top 20 U.S. companies by solar capacity, almost half are big-box retailers, according to the report.

“Five or six years ago, you probably would have read about a pledge in an annual report about what they’re doing for the environment,” Rhone Resch, SEIA’s chief executive, told the New York Times. “Now what you’re seeing is it’s a smart investment that they’re making for their shareholders, and this is a standard business practice.”

Feb 132012

Andrew Winston

At the recent GreenBiz Forum in New York, I was surprised by an on-stage interview with Fred Bedore, an executive from Walmart. I’ve followed the greening of the retail giant fairly closely for years, so I wasn’t expecting a lot of new information from Bedore, Walmart’s Senior Director of Business Strategy and Sustainability.

But amidst a seemingly scripted set of responses on Walmart’s supply chain and operational greening efforts, the discussion took an interesting turn. When addressing the company’s aspirational goal of using 100% renewable energy, Bedore said two noteworthy things.

First, 75 percent of Walmart’s California stores now have “some kind of renewable energy system.” Renewables are still providing only a tiny percentage of the company’s total electricity demand, but it’s definite progress. And the commitment to green energy has helped Walmart take third place on the U.S. EPA’s latest list of the top 50 renewable energy buyers.

Second, Bedore spoke about how Walmart thinks about its investments in green power:

“There is an ROI calculation on all sustainability investments like on all projects, but…we look at where the investment gets us. [For example] the longer term payback on solar helps us get to scale down the road.”

In essence, Bedore was saying that Walmart recognizes that it can help take the solar market to scale, thus lowering its costs in the future. It also recognizes that, in the meantime, operational managers will gain valuable experience and knowledge about how to optimize the new power systems. The company can also reap the immediate variable cost benefits of free power.

In short, Walmart has tweaked its ROI requirements for green power initiatives to reflect more of the big picture.

Of course, investing in projects with a hard-to-measure payback — such as a new marketing campaign or entry into new geographic or customer markets — is a normal part of business strategy. And making choices that do have measurable, but longer-term, strategic value should be par for the course as well. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Walmart is doing this.

But in my experience, this larger view of a company’s goals has in recent years taken a back seat to a relentless pursuit of quarterly earnings. We worship internal rates of return (IRR) to our detriment.

When it comes to green projects, this narrowly-defined measure of “payback” is particularly destructive. The typical (but evolving) view is that all sustainability initiatives are either an expense and/or should only happen if they meet the strictest hurdle rate. For years I’ve made the case that companies should shift their decision-making and investment criteria to take into account intangible and longer-term benefits that are missed in normal IRR calculations. But only a handful of leaders do this consistently.

For their part, Walmart execs have said repeatedly (and justifiably proudly) that all their sustainability projects thus far — such as dramatically improving the energy efficiency of stores and the fuel efficiency of the distribution fleet — have met normal ROI requirements. Bedore said as much…until he added the critical caveat that in the case of green power, Walmart bean counters were looking beyond the near-term payback.

Investments in renewables are an important case where this kind of flexibility of thinking is required. The actual cash payback periods are getting shorter, but they rarely meet the typical 2-year (or so) ROI required by most large companies.

But green power initiatives yield other important benefits, from reducing risk by lowering reliance on volatilely priced resources to enhancing brand value by putting visible symbols of green commitment on stores. These paybacks are real, even if they’re hard to measure, and they need to be accounted for strategically when considering the ROI on green projects.

We need a lot more flexible thinking going forward. Hurdle rates are important to provide some means of comparison between projects competing for capital. But an internal rate of return cannot be a straitjacket.

If the lords of low cost recognize the strategic value of green investments, so can the rest of us.

(Andrew Winston is a business sustainability consultant and co-author of Green to Gold. Read more at his website.)

Aug 112010

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

How green is your big box store when it comes to school supplies?

Not very — at least for some of the most popular big back-to-school retailers. Some carry green products, but not in the back-to-school category. Others carry green products, but they’re online and not necessarily available on store shelves. And one store’s definition of “eco-friendly” may be a far cry from what you’re looking for.

Let’s face it, even eager eco-conscious shoppers may throw up their hands and succumb to the ease of one-stop shopping at a major retailer.

We shopped around at five big-box retailers’ websites and spoke to some of their representatives in a search for environmentally friendly, sustainable or recycled supplies. Five chains — Target, Walmart, Office Max, Office Depot and Staples — have significant environmental and sustainability plans at the corporate level.

But when it comes to the store shelves, where you live is probably a factor in how many eco-friendly products you’ll find. Most of these retailers base a part of their stocking decision on what customers have purchased in the past, and how much of it they’ve bought. If you’re in a greener city such as San Francisco, you’ll probably have more to pick from. Not so if you live in a part of the country that hasn’t placed a high priority on eco-friendly products.


Target’s website has “Make Change. Save Green,”a page with links to numerous products tagged as eco-friendly. Finding the page was a bit of a challenge – there was no reference to it on the website’s home page.

A general search under the word “recycled” on Target.com produces 182 products, but most are household or personal items.

Target's 'Make Change, Save Green' page is the portal into the retailer's eco-friendly products.

Under the “recycled paper” lineup, 15 items surface, primarily an assortment of Elephant Poo Poo paper (made from elephant dung) and stationary. A search for recycled printer paper, notepads or binders produced no correct products.

Target does offer Smencils scented pencils, which are made of recycled newspaper, and a selection of totes and bags made of recycled materials.

Target has more than 2,000 items labeled “eco-friendly,” again primarily household and personal use items, but the company’s definition of “eco-friendly” is broad, so read product information closely to see if the item meets your green standards.

Jenine Anderson, a representative for Target, said that the company takes a variety of factors into consideration when it plans product choices – including consumer demand, industry trends, availability, geography and more.

“We continue to edit our assortment of environmentally friendly offerings, including school supplies, in stores and at Target.com as guest demand dictates,” she said.

Target did not provide numbers or percentages of the products they sell that they consider “green.”

At the corporate level, Target outlines a multi-pronged environmental program that extends beyond products to include sustainable building, recycling/reducing,  impact on the climate and more.


Walmart is loaded with back-to-school supplies, but except for recycled Post-it notes, some manila folders and a binder, few classroom requisites online appeared to be green. There were virtually no green school supply offerings in two Walmart stores sampled in Austin and Dallas.

A website search produced 23 “recycled” items. A search for “eco-friendly” returned 381 items, which included messenger and tote bags, laptop sleeves and one style of folder.

We didn’t find any green “pages” or programs on Walmart’s website, but its corporate site outlines a commitment focused on sustainability, including a goal of only selling sustainable wood products by 2013 and an even more stringent goal: to eventually be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy and create zero waste.  Walmart’s other eco-friendly product priorities, according to the website are food,  jewelry and textiles.

Walmart representatives declined to comment on its selection of eco-school supplies.


Office Depot has a Greener Office subsite although there’s nothing on its website front page to direct you there. That may be just as well, because clicking on any of the links from the Greener Office page produces confusing results that require you to continue drilling down in the page navigation on the left to eventually get to green products.

Office Depot has paper made of 90 percent recycled post-consumer fibers and banana tree products.

There is a page on the site — again, not easy to find — that touches on some of Office Depot’s best back-to-school supplies, including recycled paper products; products made of alternative fibers; non-toxic pencils, crayons and paints; and solar-powered calculators. Unfortunately, a button at the bottom of the page labelled “View products in this category” takes you to a defunct page.

Some of the product links from the Greener Office site take you essentially nowhere – a page with four products, none of which have anything to do with what you were looking for and none of which are green.

However, a search of the entire site using the word “recycled” turns up more than 2,300 results. “Recycled paper” generates more than 400 results and “recycled pencil” provides three options. There are numerous folders, files and recycled containers that bear a logo indicating the product has recycled material.

In stores, Office Depot’s top-selling green products are its own brand of 30 percent post-consumer recycled copy paper, and  re-manufactured ink and toner cartridges, said Owen Torres, the company’s manager of public relations.

Do shoppers in some parts of the country have more green goods to choose from than others? “The majority of our products are the same at all our store locations; however, there are some variances and micro-sorting based on the size of the store, location and demographics,” Torres said.

Green items can be pricey. “Some products are slightly higher in cost, such as copy paper,” Torres acknowledges. “But other items are less expensive, such as re-manufactured ink and toner cartridges. They average 10 percent less.”

Torres said some of the store’s best back-to-school green items are the New Leaf recycled composition book, which it contains 100 percent recycled content (30 percent is post-consumer content). The Think & Smile recycled notebooks, also from New Leaf, have top quality stock paper processed without chlorine and made from recycled post-consumer and assorted “fashion” covers.

Also, as with all of these retailers, shoppers should study the sustainability details. All items are not equally green.

The Greener Office page explains Office Depot’s green policies, links to advice for a greener office and details its environmental efforts, though a link to the company’s “environmental programs” leads to a dead page.

Torres says the company is aware of these glitches to green goods. “This clean-up effort is scheduled for September, 2010,” he said.


Office Max stocks its stores based on demand from previous shopping seasons. That means that West Coast stores will have more green products because shoppers there have purchased more recycled products in the past, says spokeswoman Jennifer Rook.

The Aurora Ecovue binder at Office Max contains one of the highest recycled contents of any binder available, the company says.

There are more eco-friendly options available online than you’re probably going to find in the store, she added.

OfficeMax doesn’t tout a “green” grouping of products or environmental efforts on the front of its website, but a search for “recycled” on its website returns more than 770 results.

The site offers 43 “recycled” paper products, and you can search based on the percentage of recycled content or the paper’s sustainability certification. The post-consumer recycled content of paper ranges from 30 to 100 percent.

Other green back-to-school goods include pencils, pens, staplers, binders and calculators. Office Max does make a significant effort in the printer supply section. All of  its ink and toner cartridges are re-manufactured. “We carry a large assortment of printers, particularly under the H-P brand, that have the EnergyStar rating, Rook said.

“Kids have a strong interest in buying items that are environmentally preferable,” Rook said, and that interest extends beyond paper.

On its environmental policy web page, OfficeMax says it was the first to  nationally distribute 100 percent post-consumer recycled color copier paper that is manufactured by wind power.

Finding the eco-friendly items on OfficeMax’s website, however, can be a little tricky. A search for “recycled binders” produces all binders, requiring you to click on the “environmentally preferable” subcategory on the page. The same is true of a “recycled paper” search – first you see all Office Max paper options, then you have to click again on the recycled paper subcategory.

The company increased the percentage of recycled content in its paper products from about 30 percent two years ago to about 50 percent today, Rook said. Pens and pencils from Sanford, Pilot, Zebra and Papermate with recycled content are available.

Price-wise, recycled paper products are probably going to cost more than their non-green counterparts because of what is takes to recycle material, though recycled cartridges for ink and toner can cost less than other brands, Rook said.

Again, study the details – one company’s “green” may or may not be “not green enough” for you.


Staples has a detailed environmental commitment outlined in its Staples’ Soul page. A link from the bottom of Staples.com takes you to its Eco Easy subsite. On that page, Staples offers information about, and links to, green and environmentally sensitive products.

Staples has its own Sustainable Earth product line, including paper and notepads.

Searching for the complete lineup of eco-friendly products is more efficient if you start from the Eco Easy page, rather than through the main search box.

Staples has its own Sustainable Earth product line (although the assortment of items is limited). A variety of symbols indicate the environmental qualities of products online, from sustainable paper to toxin-safe crayons. Staples larger efforts are spelled out on its corporate commitment pages.

Staples shoppers will find more Earth-friendly products online than in stores. “Among eco-conscious products, we have nearly 3,000 in store, but about 4,500 available online,” said spokeswoman Amy Shandler. Green products make up about 15 percent of their entire product line, she said.

Staples won’t share sales particulars, but Shandler said some of their favorites for back-to-school shopping include eco-conscious Crayolas and Ticonderoga pencils made of recycled tires.

The retailer, like many other office-supply stores, has surge protectors that allow you to manage the power drain of PCs and peripherals when they’re not buzzing with homework (or other important teen tasks).

Staples also points shoppers to information online about its best-selling green school supplies.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

May 122010

From Green Right Now Reports

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation today announced a $2 billion cash and in-kind commitment to help end hunger in America. Calling its five-year initiative “Fighting Hunger Together,” the world’s largest retailer said it would donate more than 1.1 billion pounds of food from Walmart stores, distribution centers and Sam’s Club locations, valued at $1.75 billion.

In addition, Walmart said it will award $250 million in grants to support hunger relief organizations at the national, state and local levels. The company also plans to mobilize its employees customers in the effort and it will begin collaborating with the government, food manufacturers and other corporations that are fighting hunger to increase their impact and reach a greater number of families in need.

Walmart executives said its logistics team, for example, will lend its expertise to help food banks become more efficient in their operations.

The company cited a November 2009 United States Department of Agriculture report that said hunger rates in the U.S. are the highest since 1995, with nearly 15 percent of households lacking access to an adequate supply of nutritious food. Walmart said it expects its cash and in-kind gifts of fresh produce, meat, dairy and other foods to provide more than 1 billion meals to needy families.

“Increasingly, we see opportunities to use our scale and reach to solve challenges in our communities. This is one of those times,” Eduardo Castro-Wright, Walmart’s vice chairman, said in a statement. “By working together, we believe we can reach a day where no individual in this country has to go to bed hungry or worry if there will be food to put on the table tomorrow.”

Castro-Wright announced the company’s plans on Capitol Hill today, joined by USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon; Senate Hunger Caucus Co-Chairwoman Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.); House Hunger Caucus Co-Chairmen Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.); Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.); Rep. John Boozman (R-Ark.); and Terry Shannon, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in Phoenix – the first food bank in the U.S.

The Walmart Foundation said its first grants would include donations totaling $8 million to help U.S. food banks improve capacity. This includes $6 million to purchase 60 refrigerated trucks for Feeding America food banks. Added to the 69 previously donated by Walmart, the trucks will help ensure that each food bank can safely transport donations from Walmart stores and other grocers.

Other donations totaling $10 million will be used to ensure that children across the U.S. are fed healthy meals during the school year and summer months, the company said. For example, $2 million will support the National Recreation and Park Association’s summer feeding program and provide 2 million meals for U.S. children.

Apr 282010

From Green Right Now Reports

Greenpeace released its fourth seafood “sustainability scorecard” today, which showed that the supermarket chain Target has moved up from fourth place to receive the number one ranking.

Tilapia, look for U.S. farmed (Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Tilapia, look for U.S. farmed (Image: Monterey Bay Aquarium)

Wegmans, last year’s winner for best seafood sustainability practices, inched down to second place. Whole Foods Markets remained at third place.

Safeway and Ahold USA (Stop and Shop and Giant stores) and Harris Teeter rounded out the top six stores in the rankings, which rate the retailers based on how well they are monitoring the seafood they sell to keep threatened and over-fished species off the market.

The top six supermarket chains of 20 reviewed all received strong marks for having a sustainability plan and acting on it. The next four stores were given credit for having a plan, and for taking some actions to preserve ocean ecosystems. The bottom ten stores were given failing grades.

The rankings are part of a report called Carting Away the Oceans. In the report, Greenpeace notes that three companies that had previously received a failing grade, achieved passing marks this year. Those are: A&P; Delhaize and Trader Joe’s, which Greenpeace had singled out last year for its failure to stop buying imperiled fish and its lack of a seafood policy to guide buying. The chain announced in March that it was developing a sustainable seafood plan.

This year’s losers in the Greenpeace rankings — those stores that continue to sell seafood that conservationists have identified as in jeopardy and have no “visible” plan to address seafood sustainability  — include: H.E.B. (H.E.B. and Central Market), Meijer, Costco, SUPERVALU, Publix and Winn Dixie.

“A significant divide is developing among the major retailers,” said Greenpeace’s Senior Markets Campaigner, Casson Trenor. “It’s now clear that Wegmans, Target and Whole Foods are making substantive progress reflecting their commitment while others such as H.E.B. and Costco remain committed to selling endangered species and destroying marine ecosystems.”

Greenpeace believes all seafood sellers should adopt sustainable practices to help ensure the survival of fisheries and marine ecosystems worldwide. The environmental advocacy group advocates the creation of a global network of marine preserves that operate to help save ocean eco-systems and maintain long-term viability of fish populations. To help with this, food sellers should refuse to sell from fisheries that exploit marine populations, alter the eco-system (such as when large trawlers destroy coral), use practices that harm non-targeted fish (like dolphin) or illegal and unlicensed means of obtaining fish.

The list of chains that Greenpeace investigated, ranked from best to worst:

1.   Target

2.   Wegmans

3.   Whole Foods

4.   Safeway (Dominicks, Genuardi’s, Pavilions, Randall’s, Von’s)

5.   Ahold USA (Stop & Shop, Giant)

6.   Harris Teeter

7.  A&P (Food Emporium, Pathmark, Super Fresh, Waldbaum’s)

8.  Delhaize (Bloom, Food Lion, Hannaford Bros., Sweetbay)

9.  Walmart

10.  Trader Joe’s

11.  Price Chopper

12.  Aldi

13.  Kroger (Baker’s, City Market, Dillon’s, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Ralph’s, Smith’s, Quality Food Center – QFC)

14.  Costco

15.  Supervalu (Acme, Albertson’s, Bristol Farms, Jewel-Osco, Save-A-Lot, Shaw’s)

16.  Giant Eagle

17.   Publix

18.   Winn Dixie

19.   Meijer

20.   H.E.B. (H.E.B., Central Market)

Greenpeace isn’t alone in trying to bring attention to fisheries depletion. The Environmental Defense Fund has issued a list of eco-best to worst seafood to help consumers choose sustainable varieties.

Ditto the NRDC, which has put out a Seafood Guide.

Feb 252010

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

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.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Jan 212010

From Green Right Now Reports

Plastics Color Corporation has launched a new line of color concentrates partially made with post-consumer and industrial plastic content, providing manufacturers with a way to meet recycled material requirements and trim their use of valuable natural resources.

The recycled colorants are offered in a variety of resin types and wide range of colors. PCC said the recycled content of the concentrate formulations range from 25 percent to 82 percent, depending on the color. The new color concentrates can be used for a variety of applications, including playground equipment, construction material, furniture, pallets, packaging and house wares.

“The product line was developed in response to customer requests for products that aid in their sustainability initiatives,” Joe Byrne, Plastics Color Corporation’s vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “One of the key elements of sustainability is to reduce the use of products derived from limited resources, such as petroleum. Every pound of post-consumer resin we use helps to reduce consumption of virgin material, therefore minimizing the impact of depleting our limited resources.”

PCC said Walmart is just one end-user that is driving the creation of more earth-friendly products by requiring its 100,000 global suppliers to quantify their own sustainability programs by completing a survey and tracking their “green” efforts. PCC executives believe that as consumers demand more sustainability in the products they purchase, all manufacturers will be looking for more recycled raw materials and reduced energy usage in production.

Jan 082010

Green Right Now Reports

Making good on it’s “live better” motto, Walmart has just completed three more solar projects in the Los Angeles area, as it works toward adding solar installations to at least 10 and possibly as many as 20 Walmart facilities in California in 2010.

wmlogoThe projects are part of the mega store’s solar initiative announced last Earth Day, which aims to save operating costs and promote renewable energy.

“Walmart’s effort to expand and accelerate its solar power initiative program here in California demonstrates their commitment to sustainability. These kinds of projects create green jobs, reduce costs for businesses by lowering power bills, and protect the environment,” said Mary D. Nichols, Chairman of the California Air Resources Board in a press release.

Nichols added that the CARB would like other businesses to follow Walmart’s lead.

The projects are in Paramount, Baldwin Park and Highland.

The expanded solar initiative builds upon Walmart’s solar pilot program that began in May 2007.

Walmart reports that its total combined solar efforts in California are expected to provide about 20-30 percent of each store’s total electricity needs.

The solar installations also are projected to:

  • Generate up to 32 million kilowatt hours of renewable energy per year, which is enough to power more than 2,600 homes.
  • Avoid producing more than 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, the equivalent of taking about 2,000 cars off the road.
    the equivalent of taking approximately 2,000 cars off the road.

“The completion of these facilities marks another important step in our drive to become more sustainable and achieve our goal of being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy,” said Kimberly Sentovich, vice president and regional general manager for Walmart. “Increasing the use of solar energy is a benefit for the environment and makes business sense, as well.”

Jul 152009

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

A robin may be the mascot for the Red Robin restaurant chain, but chickens are the birds getting a big break from the company.

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has more than 300 company-owned restaurants, and they are swiftly moving away from the use of eggs produced by hens that live in torturous conditions at factory farms across the country.

Photo: Humane Society of the United States

Hens in ‘battery cages’ by Compassion Over Killing

Right now, about one-third of the eggs in the Red Robin supply chain are “cage-free,” and they intend to have 100 percent of the eggs they serve come from cage-free hens by 2010, the company says.

Red Robin is moving quickly, but other large restaurant chains – Burger King, Denny’s, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. among them — are moving away from eggs produced by hens kept in “battery cages.”

The vast majority of factory farm chickens in America – about 280 million – live in those cruel cages, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Battery doesn’t refer to electricity, but rather to the large number, or “battery,” of chickens crammed together in a mesh enclosure the size of a file drawer. Each hen’s living space is the size of a piece of letter-size paper. The birds cannot stand, stretch their wings, walk or nest. Their cages are stacked one atop the other in warehouse-sized buildings. They live this way for more than a year, then they are slaughtered.

The horrible conditions lead to slowed production and illness, so they are usually killed before they turn 2. A laying hen’s normal lifespan is 7 years.

The Humane Society has a video on the subject, if you can stomach it.

Those birds are among the most abused animals in the factory farm industry, said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Factory Farming Campaign of the national Humane Society.

Photo: Humane Society of the United States

‘Cage-free’ egg farm

“Cage-free hens are able to walk around, spread their wings, lay eggs in nests,” he said. They are still enclosed, but it is a huge improvement over battery cages. “Red Robin has taken an important step toward improving animal welfare in their supply chain,” Shapiro said.

American companies started to eschew battery cage eggs in 2005, when the Whole Foods grocery chain refused to sell them, he said. “Then Trader Joe’s (another large grocery chain) implemented a policy to make their private label eggs cage-free. Ben & Jerry’s, which uses eggs in every carton of ice cream, has committed to going 100 percent cage-free. We’ve also seen a number of universities and high schools – nearly 400 in the U.S. – go partially to entirely with cage-free eggs in their cafeterias.”

Wolfgang Puck only uses meat and eggs from animals raised under strict welfare codes. Even Walmart is offering cage-free eggs.

This May, the big fish of fast food, McDonald’s, said it is launching a study aimed at creating alternative, more humane forms of hen housing, according to media reports. Unfortunately, that doesn’t translate into a swift change to cruelty-free eggs, but it’s a start.

The demand for cage-free eggs is forcing the egg industry to adapt. “A few years ago, 98 percent of egg-laying hens were in battery cages. Now that number is 94 percent,” Shapiro said, and that percentage will continue to drop. “We’ve seen that most egg producers now have both cage and cage-free production. Before, that wasn’t the case.”

Photo: Humane Society of the United States

Pig in ‘gestational crate’

Susan Lintonsmith joined Red Robin in 2007 as chief marketing officer, and she worked to establish an animal welfare policy. Consumers were getting more concerned with the way factory farm animals are treated, so Red Robin paired with groups such as the Humane Society of the U.S. to develop their policy.

How many eggs are we talking about? Red Robin said they serve about 4.2 million eggs a year.

On their corporate Web site, Burger King says they used cage-free eggs on more than 2 million Croissan’wich breakfast sandwiches. They would use more, but they cite limited commercial supply (a complaint reiterated by other large food retailers).

It’s not just hens who are hurting. Other animals raised for food are subjected to “intensive confinement” practices in America’s factory farms. Pigs destined for the kitchen or restaurant are forced to live in “gestation crates” – small, 2-foot-wide cages barely larger than the pig’s body, the Humane Society’s Shapiro said. “The pigs are confined in that space for several months while they are pregnant. They are unable to even turn around,” he said.

“This type of cruelty has been criminalized in six states and the entire European Union has banned it as well,” Shapiro said.

The first state to take action was California. In November of last year, voters there resoundingly backed – with 63.5 percent of the vote — an initiative to prevent animal farm cruelty. Their law says that certain animals on farms much have room to stand up, move around and stretch their limbs.

Photo: Humane Society of the United States

Pigs in ‘group housing’

For pigs, the new living conditions are referred to as “group housing,” where they are kept in pens that allow them to walk around.

That translates into nearly 20 million hens, pigs and calves with improved living conditions. “That’s the biggest advancement for farm animals in U.S. history,” said Erin Williams, a spokesperson for the Humane Society. Another five states have begun to take steps against these inhumane environments.

Even though retailers are talking more about cruelty-free food from farms, and leaning on producers to change their processes, battery cages and gestation crates are still the predominant form of animal containment in America.

Photo: Humane Society of the United States
Veal calves in small crates

Pressure has been on veal producers for years, to the point that the top two veal producers in the nation have stopped holding calves in 2-foot-wide wooden crates where they’re chained by the neck and can’t turn. Their muscles atrophy to the point that many cannot walk. Those veal factory farms now have calves living in group housing, where they can move around and socialize.

Lest you think that a move to “cage-free” or “group housing” environments is akin to life on Old MacDonald’s Farm, Shapiro cautions that these roomier facilities do not mean that the animals are living “cruelty-free.” They are still contained, not free to roam large or outdoor spaces. They suffer other cruel treatment at the hands of large factory farms.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Apr 082009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

Earth Day is just around the corner, and the easiest way to show your support is by what you wear. Many different retailers have put out Earth Day t-shirts. Just remember you need time for shipping, so order soon.

Here is a slideshow of some Earth Day T-shirts:

Earth Day Network has released two official T-shirts for the occasion. Both cost $25 and are made of organic cotton. The cotton is woven in the US and then the shirt is assembled in Honduras.

The website also offers the official 2009 Earth Day poster for sale and more info about organic cotton that explains how it helps drastically reduce pesticide use. (Proceeds benefit EDN, though this is not considered a donation.)