Walmart Greening Through Buyers

The Walmart Club of DC Green Business Forum met May 23 with Walmart’s Director of Sustainability for Stakeholder Engagement Katherine Neebe.  She explained that the background of Walmart’s 2005 commitment to going green:  1) to be supplied with 100% renewable energy, 2) to create zero waste and 3) the sell products that sustain people and the environment was rooted it its experience of the hurricane Katrina.  Walmart executives realized that their ability to maintain operations after the storm, to provide the affected communities with the supplies they needed afterwards, made it an indispensable part of the community and that they must rise to the challenge by becoming even more reliable and resilient members of that community.  The experience led Walmart leadership to adopt the ambitious goals outlined above and has gradually exerted a growing influence over its energy procurement and other operational decisions since then.  Neebe reported that as of spring 2014, Walmart gets 24% of its energy in worldwide operations from renewable sources, some 8% directly installed on its buildings and the rest obtained from local renewable energy providers.  It is currently the largest purchaser of solar and fuel cell energy in the U.S.  It also has achieved 82% of its goal of producing zero waste.

Concerning procurement of sustainable products, the company has recently compiled a scorecard for products that rates producers according to various metrics and makes it possible to evaluate comparatively sources of the items it stocks in its stores on sustainability elements.  Most recently, it has advised its buyers that 5% of their income will be directly affected by how well they do at improving their net sustainability scores for products they buy for the stores.  In short, the sustainability effort has moved from the leadership down to the buyers’ level, sure to make it a key criteria in making buying decisions.

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