Sustainability Series: Walmart Stores, Inc.

November 04, 2011

We talk with Brooke Buchanan, Director of Communications for Sustainability at Walmart, about the importance of making sustainable products affordable and attainable for all consumers.

Founded in 1962, with the opening of the first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Arkansas, Walmart quickly grew to 276 stores in 11 states by the late 70s. In 1983, the company opened its first Sam’s Club membership warehouse and became international in 1991 with the opening of a Sam’s Club in Mexico. Today, Walmart  Stores, Inc. serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week at more than 9.600 retail units under 69 different banners in 28 countries – with fiscal year 2011 sales of $419 billion. We talked to Brooke Buchanan, Director of Communications for Sustainability at Walmart, about the importance of making sustainable products affordable and attainable for all consumers.

How does your business define sustainability?
At Walmart, sustainability continues to make us a better company by reducing waste, lowering costs, driving innovation, and helping us fulfill our mission to save people money so they can live better. Through an approach we call Sustainability 360, we are taking a holistic view of our business to develop goals that reduce our own environmental footprint and engage our suppliers, associates and customers in our sustainability efforts to achieve even greater results.
How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?
At Walmart we believe being an efficient and profitable business goes hand-in-hand with being a good steward of the environment. With more than 100,000 suppliers and more than two million associates working in 8,400 retail locations worldwide, we have the ability to reach and influence people around the world as we serve our customers and members.
Sustainability 360 lives in every corner of our business – from associate job descriptions to our interactions with suppliers – and guides our decisions based on improving the environment, supply chain and communities where we operate and source.
What are your short term and long term goals?
We established three sustainability goals that guide our efforts in becoming a more sustainable company:
-  Being supplied 100 percent by renewable energy
-  Creating zero waste
-  Selling products that sustain people and resources
Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?
Our supply chain. We are working with our entire supply chain to make our suppliers’ products more sustainable, but we are also helping them become more sustainable businesses in their own right. It’s an effort to put more energy efficient and environmentally friendly products in the hands of our customers at a price they can afford. It is a natural fit into our company’s commitment to helping people save money so they can live better. 
As Walmart grows, we’re monitoring our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and working to mitigate our carbon footprint by integrating energy-saving technologies into our stores, investing in renewable energy and improving our fleet.
How do you measure your progress?
Walmart’s Global Responsibility Report is designed to demonstrate our continued progress toward key initiatives and goals, and provide a snapshot of new initiatives. As a global company, we highlight the performance of our global markets as well as the efforts taking place throughout our supply chain.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?
We are helping create a global Sustainability Index to evaluate the sustainability of the products we sell, providing customers with transparent information about the quality and history of those products.
Walmart is committed to increasing the amount of locally sourced produce sold in our stores. Our goal is to double the sales of locally sourced produce accounting for nine percent of all produce sold by the end of 2015.
We’ve made a global commitment to sustainable agriculture and have pledged to sell $1 billion of food sourced from one million small and medium-sized farmers by 2015. We will also train one million farmers – half of whom will be women – in sustainable farming techniques.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?
Walmart is committed to providing customers with tools and information on the transparency and sustainability of the products they buy, and helping them use and dispose of products more responsibly.
Our customers shop at Walmart to get the best value for their money. When it comes to sustainability, we’re dedicated to providing customers with that same value by bringing more sustainable products to our shelves at more affordable prices. And by bringing products like affordable organic produce, fair trade coffee, Seventh Generation, and compact fluorescent light bulbs within the reach of the customers who shop in our stores, we believe that we can play a powerful role in protecting our environment and our earth’s natural resources - and in shifting the behavior of the marketplace.

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom