Walmart announces sustainability commitments

26 October 2012

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27 October 2012 | Lorna Blackwood

Global retailer Walmart has unveiled a series of actions designed to increase sustainability throughout its global supply chain.

The initiatives will see the company design more sustainable products, make its supply chain more socially and environmentally accountable and offer incentives to suppliers to make sustainability a bigger part of their working environment. The announcement came at an event in Beijing this week (25 October) attended by government officials, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), academics, suppliers and company associates.

Mike Duke, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc, told the attendees: “Walmart and the Chinese government, along with local NGOs and suppliers, have worked together and independently to find new solutions and models for sustainable growth. This announcement will help accelerate the good work under way to make affordable and sustainable consumer goods more accessible here in China and around the world.”

The Walmart Foundation will offer $2 million (£1.24 million) to fund the launch of a branch of The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) in China. TSC is an independent research organisation and will use the grant to form a global network of leaders from industries and universities. It will look to improve sustainability in consumer goods and provide resources to help suppliers become more sustainable and competitive. The results will help Walmart refine its Sustainability Index or use in China.

The index, which measures product sustainability using metrics developed by TSC, is now used by Walmart in regular buying decisions. More than 500 suppliers have participated in the Sustainability Index, representing 70 per cent of sales within the categories Walmart is currently evaluating.

The announcement of these additional initiatives will build on earlier goals set by Walmart at the China Sustainability Summit in 2008. It wanted to improve sustainability practices in its operations in China that would have benefits throughout the supply chain. By July 2012, 195 of its factories in China had improved energy efficiency by 20 per cent.

Duke is looking to make all factories more socially and environmentally sustainable, reduce energy and water usage as well as eliminate harmful emissions into rivers and the air. He concluded: “We will also have deeper insight into how we can make manufacturing more sustainable for people and communities in China.”

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