Wal-Mart extending sustainability efforts

by Keith Nunes
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BENTONVILLE, ARK. — Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. is extending its efforts to develop a sustainable supply chain. A plan, announced Oct. 6, includes four pillars: affordability, improving access to food, making healthier eating easier to understand, and improving the safety and transparency of the supply chain.

The four pillars are designed to meet the food needs of a growing population, according to the retailer.

“The future of food is absolutely critical for both our society and for our business, which means we have a huge opportunity to make a difference here,” said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “We’ve learned on our sustainability journey that we’re most successful when our initiatives create social and environmental value and business value at the same time. Food is our No. 1 category worldwide, and we are going to do even more in our grocery business in the years ahead. Paving a sustainable future for food is necessary for society and our business.”

The affordable pillar of the plan will focus on reducing what Wal-Mart calls the “true cost” of food. The work in this area will revolve around the company’s Climate Smart Agriculture Platform. The platform is designed to provide visibility over the next decade to agricultural yields, greenhouse gas emissions and water use. Working with suppliers, the company plans to improve environmental outcomes through the effort.

The retailer said it plans to provide four billion healthier meals to consumers who need them in the United States over the next five years under its accessible pillar. The initiative builds upon the company’s Fighting Hunger Together commitment that was launched in 2010 with the goal of providing 1.1 billion meals in five years. The goal was met within four years, according to Wal-Mart.

To help consumers make healthier choices, Wal-Mart and the Wal-Mart Foundation will provide nutrition education to four million U.S. households under the sustainability program’s healthier initiative. Noting that it has reduced sodium by 13% and sugar levels by 10% under its Great Value and Marketside brands, the new commitment is designed to help consumers be more informed.

Finally, a transparent food chain fosters improved food safety, worker safety, and animal welfare, the retailer said. Wal-Mart plans to work to provide more information and transparency about the products on its shelves so customers can see where an item came from, how it was made, and decode the ingredient label.

“Wal-Mart has made major progress since we set out to achieve our three ambitious sustainability goals to create zero waste, be powered by 100% renewable energy, and sell products that sustain people and the environment,” Mr. McMillon said. “We believe it’s especially critical to focus our time and effort on advancing the sustainability of our food products and practices. Grocery is a very personal category — it’s about what you feed your kids and how you take care of yourself. It’s about your health and wellbeing. And it all comes down to trust. Customers have to trust us on food. When we focus on food, we are doing right by our customers, our communities, and our planet.”
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