Project Gigaton: Walmart achieves supply chain emissions goal ahead of schedule

McMillon, also president of the retail giant, announced the achievement to investors and financial analysts during an earnings call on Wednesday (21 February).

First announced in 2017, Project Gigaton saw Walmart pledging to deliver the reduction or avoidance of a billion metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions across its value chains – predominantly in the upstream supply chain – by 2030. A 2015 baseline was set.

Walmart later added carbon sequestration to its calculation for the Project, for example through improved soil quality on farms.

Walmart stated that it had achieved half of the progress necessary to meet the goal in April 2022, meaning that the past 18 months or so have been a period of accelerated emissions reductions for the firm.

More than 5,900 suppliers are participating in Project Gigaton, McMillon stated, with suppliers representing 75% of the retailer’s net sales now disclosing their emissions.

The hope is that these suppliers can not only enhance their emissions disclosures and undertake further projects to reduce, avoid or sequester carbon, but share knowledge with peers.

“By engaging and supporting thousands of suppliers who span product categories and regions around the world, we aim to spark innovation in practices and infrastructure that can accelerate and expand emissions reduction and avoidance across the industry,” a statement from Walmart’s chief sustainability officer Kathleen McLaughlin reads.

“We hope Project Gigaton will continue to set the standard for corporate climate action — because a more sustainable supply chain is a more resilient one.”

Carrots and sticks

Explaining how it achieved the milestone, Walmart emphasised the importance of “immediate and sustained actions”.

2017 saw the retailer asking its largest suppliers to set numerical, time-bound goals to reduce their emissions and to enhance their emissions disclosure. It also began providing suppliers with advice on implementing the most “science-based” and “practical” projects to address their emissions hotspots.

Practical support has been provided and updated on emissions measurements, goal-setting, reporting and project delivery. This has come in the form of summits – online and in-person – plus documents and digital tools.

Businesses are encouraged to improve year-on-year through the potential to achieve ‘Giga Guru’ status – an accolade provided to Walmart based on “excellence in target-setting, action and results”. Advice on what ‘excellence’ looks like has been drawn from resources including CDP, WWF and the Environmental Defence Fund.

Assisting with financial and practical barriers for smaller businesses has been another key focus for Walmart. The business runs a ‘Gigaton PPA’ programme enabling suppliers to collectively purchase renewable energy from wind farms via joint Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) – the first of which was confirmed in October 2022.

Walmart has stated that it will continue Project Gigaton in the hopes of driving further climate action within and beyond its supply chains. Future focus areas will include zero-emissions transport, innovative materials and low-carbon infrastructure.

The business will also, in tandem, work to improve estimates of its Scope 3 emissions footprint.

Walmart is notably striving for certification under the Net-Zero Standard from the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi). This standard requires businesses to commit to a 90% reduction in emissions across Scopes 1, 2 and 3 by 2050 at the latest.

Walmart has already set a 2040 target for net-zero Scope 1 and 2 emissions and had its 2030 climate goals verified by the SBTi in line with 1.5C.

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