Walmart reduced supply chain emissions by 20 million tonnes last year

The world's largest retailer has revealed that its suppliers collectively reduced their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by more than 20 million tonnes in 2017, as the company pushes towards a target to cut supply chain emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030.

The milestone, revealed in the latest iteration of Walmart’s annual sustainability report, was reached after 400 of the company’s global suppliers committed to reducing their emissions as part of Walmart’s Project Gigaton – a pledge to eliminate the equivalent of more than the annual emissions of Germany from the Walmart supply chain. Walmart notes that 90% of its total emissions come from the supply chain.

The project has seen hundreds of Walmart suppliers equipped with an emissions reduction toolkit – produced by WWF – and details steps which should be taken to cut carbon emissions across areas such as manufacturing, materials and use of products.

Walmart’s president and chief executive, Doug McMillion, said in a statement that he was “encouraged” by the progress, but acknowledged that the company “can do more to create shared value and earn the trust of all its stakeholders”.

The statement added that Project Gigaton forms part of Walmart’s ongoing “transformation” of its day-to-day operations.

Science-based success

The retailer’s latest CSR report, published on Friday (August 10), highlights its progress on renewable energy, sustainable transportation and energy efficiency as it progresses towards a goal aligned to climate science.

Walmart was the first retailer to adopt a science-based emissions reduction plan, with an aim to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 18% by 2025. By the end of last year, 28% of Walmart’s electricity needs globally were supplied by renewable sources, primarily solar energy, installed across more than 500 onsite and off-site arrays. Walmart claims the increase in its renewable power sourcing, which was up 2% year-on-year, has put it on track to reach its overarching target to power half of its operations with renewable energy by 2025.

The move to source a greater proportion of renewable power has seen Walmart develop 800MW of green generation capacity globally, the report notes – enough to charge every mobile phone in the US.

To complement its solar installations, Walmart has installed 350 electric vehicle (EV) charging points at 100 of its US stores and has formed a partnership with Tesla to develop energy storage systems, in order to balance energy generation at numerous Southern California stores.

Wasting no time

Walmart additionally revealed its progress towards a zero-waste goal in its operations in the report, which noted that it diverted 81% of waste materials from landfill in the US last year – down slightly from 82% in 2016. For the first time, the CSR report also tracks Walmart’s global progress towards zero waste, with the retailer having reused or recycled 78% of its materials globally in 2017.

The report highlights the ways in which Walmart has shifted towards servitisation models last year as it strives to become more circular. Highlights include refurbishing 280,000 tonnes of decks, shelves, uprights and other store fixtures in the US and sending 7.5 million electronic devices for refurbishment globally.

Meanwhile, Walmart’s food waste reduction efforts saw 775 million pounds of food sent for redistribution in 2017 – enough to create 628 million meals. In the US, Walmart works in partnership with non-profit Feed America, which uses a digital platform to help food retailers donate excess goods to the best-suited local pantry or food programme. 

Last year also saw Walmart begin to install anaerobic digesters at its UK retail brand, Asda, in a bid to break inedible food waste down into gases that can be used for fuels and fertilisers.

Sarah George

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