Walmart focuses on climate, waste, diversity

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart’s 2020 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report describes progress in areas including emissions, waste reduction, and leadership diversity.

The report, which covers the fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2020, does not discuss the social issues of COVID-19 and racial inequity which arose later in 2020. Following are highlights of how Walmart is addressing several key environmental, social and governance issues.

  • Climate: Walmart made U.K.-based environmental organization CDP’s 2019 “A List” for climate action. The retailer reduced emissions in its operations in line with science-based targets and used renewable energy sources for an estimated 29% of energy needs globally, on track toward its goal of powering 50% of its operations with renewable energy by 2025. Walmart also reports progress on Project Gigaton, its global effort to avoid 1 billion metric tons of emissions by 2030. More than 2,300 suppliers have signed on, reporting 136 million metric tons (MMT) of avoided emissions, which Walmart says results in a total of 230 MMT of cumulative avoided emissions since the program began in 2017.
  • Waste: Walmart diverted an estimated 80% of its unsold products, packaging and other operational materials from landfills and incineration globally, as part of the company’s goal to achieve zero waste in our own operations by 2025.
  • Natural capital: Working with suppliers and based on their reported data, Walmart estimates approximately 85% of its global private brand palm oil was sourced sustainably, and, as of September 2019, 100% of Walmart U.S. private brand coffee was sourced certified sustainable.
  • Retail associates: Walmart hit a milestone during fiscal 2020 in its Retail Opportunity philanthropic program - a cumulative investment of $130 million in grants through Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to organizations innovating in the training and advancement of incumbent frontline workers. The retailer also engaged over 50 nonprofit organizations to advance economic opportunity for entry-level people in retail and related sectors.
  • Diversity in leadership: During the fiscal year, the proportion of U.S. management of color increased to 35% from 33%, and U.S. officers of color increased to 24% from 21%. Walmart's U.S. management is made up of 45% women, which is up from 43% in fiscal 2019. In fiscal 2020, 31% of Walmart's U.S. officers were women, which is down 1% from fiscal 2019.
  • People in supply chains: During the fiscal year, Walmart and Sam's Club sourced more than $11.7 billion in goods from approximately 2,900 diverse suppliers in the U.S.

“Walmart takes a shared value, whole-system approach to ESG, said Kathleen McLaughlin, executive VP and chief sustainability officer, Walmart. Our ESG initiatives aim to go beyond mitigating business risk. We aim to address societal issues through business initiatives that create value for all our stakeholders; and we seek, in collaboration with others, to transform underlying societal systems (such as retail workforce development and food supply chains) for long-term social, environmental and economic sustainability.”