Wal-Mart Makes Progress on Sustainability Goals

by | May 13, 2010

Wal-Mart has met several sustainability goals including its global target to design and open a store prototype that is up to 25 to 30 percent more efficient and produces up to 30 percent less greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the 2005 baseline, according to the retailer’s global sustainability progress report.

Here are several highlights from Wal-Mart’s progress report.

In 2005, the company set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at existing global store, club and distribution centers 20 percent by 2012, from 2005 levels.

The retailer’s recent complete annual data from 2008 shows that it has decreased GHG emissions created by those global facilities by 5.1 percent, which means Wal-Mart is about 25 percent of the way toward achieving its goal thanks to the installation of energy-efficient technologies, advanced refrigeration and renewable energy technologies.

As an example, in 2009, Wal-Mart opened four more high-efficiency (HE) buildings, including two HE.3 stores and an HE.6 store and club.  The HE.3 stores are expected to perform 25 percent more efficiently than its 2005 baseline stores, while the HE.6 buildings are expected to perform 30 percent more efficiently.

Wal-Mart also committed to retrofit low- and medium-temperature refrigerated display cases at more than 500 U.S. stores with LED lighting by 2009, using a 2005 baseline. The retailer completed 501 retrofits in FY 2008 and 499 in FY 2009.

Wal-Mart also continues to expand its renewable energy investments with new solar projects and by purchasing electricity generated by renewable sources.

As an example, in the U.S., Wal-Mart plans to add 10 to 20 additional solar panel power projects in California by the end of 2010. By the end of January 2010, the retailer completed the installation of 10 of these projects in Southern California and expects to complete others in the next year.

In addition, Wal-Mart agreed to install solar systems at two planned California superstores as a means of settling two lawsuits it faced over future emissions at the sites. Also, Wal-Mart agreed to pay $27.6 million to settle charges that it violated California environmental laws by improperly handling, storing and disposing of hazardous materials about four years ago.

In February, Wal-Mart Canada announced plans to build an energy-efficient distribution center, as well as to add wind and solar to its operations.

Wal-Mart also continues to make improvements to its fleets in the U.S., Japan and in the U.K. In the U.S., the retailer set a goal to achieve a 25 percent increase in fleet efficiency by October 2008, using 2005 as the baseline. Wal-Mart exceeded the goal by improving fleet efficiency by 38 percent.

A new goal is to double fleet efficiency in the U.S. by October 2015, using a 2005 baseline. So far, the company has achieved a 60 percent increase in fleet efficiency since 2005.

In 2009, ASDA, Wal-Mart’s UK business, met its fleet efficiency goal to emit 40 percent fewer carbon emissions than its fleet emitted in 2005.

Wal-Mart also has committed to eliminating landfill waste from U.S. stores and Sam’s Club locations by 2025. From February 2009 through January 2010, the company redirected more than 64 percent of the waste generated by these facilities.

The company also set a goal to reduce solid waste from U.S. stores and Sam’s Club locations 25 percent by October 2008, using a 2005 baseline. Wal-Mart has redirected more than 57 percent of the waste generated by these locations from February 2008 to January 2009.

In 2009 alone, Wal-Mart recycled more than 1.3 million pounds of aluminum, 120 million pounds of plastics, 11.6 million pounds of mixed paper and 4.6 billion pounds of cardboard.

In one effort, the retailer is collecting cardboard from some of its stores to be turned into boxes for its private-label take-and-bake pizzas, which should keep 8,600 tons of cardboard waste from landfills, while saving 125,000 trees and 40 million gallons of water.

In 2009, the company also reduced its plastic bag waste globally by about 66.5 million pounds, which equals approximately 4.8 billion bags. This represents a 16.1 percent reduction from its 2007 baseline.

Since launching its packaging scorecard in 2008 to rate suppliers on the sustainability of their packaging, suppliers have entered more than 329,000 items that Wal-Mart sells and 11,000 items that it tracks at Sam’s Clubs.

To accelerate Wal-Mart’s progress toward reducing packaging in its supply chain by 5 percent by 2013 (using 2008 as the baseline), the retailer expanded the packaging scorecard to Canada and Mexico.

In May 2009, Wal-Mart unveiled the initial version of the GreenWERCS tool, which is designed to assess the composition of chemical-based products it sells, screening them for chemical ingredients that could have adverse environmental impacts.

Initial results indicate that more than 50 percent of the chemical-intensive products on its shelves contain no ingredients of concern as identified by the Chemical Intensive Product Sustainable Value Network (SVN). The tool also has helped identify suppliers whose products do contain chemicals of concern, and Wal-Mart is actively working with them to identify alternative chemical components.

The company has not been able to achieve its goal to eliminate PVC from private brand packaging in the U.S. by October 2007. Wal-Mart says it hasn’t been able to find suitable replacements for PVC in packaging such as over-the-counter, tamper-evident bands, metal can sealants and meat wrapping.

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