Wal-Mart launches ambitious project to cut 1B tons of emissions from supply chain

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Dive Brief:

  • Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday announced a strategy, dubbed Project Gigaton​, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from their operations and supply chains. The initiative will provide an emissions reduction toolkit to suppliers that seek to eliminate one gigaton (or one billion tons) of emissions by 2030, focusing on manufacturing, materials and use of products. 

  • The reduction is equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year, the company said in a press release following its annual Milestone Summit.

  • Suppliers that agreed to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and boost recycling efforts include: Colgate-Palmolive Company, Unilever, Dairy Farmers of America, General Mills, Land O’Lakes and Kimberly Clark.

Dive Insight:

Project Gigaton is part of a series of sustainability initiatives at Wal-Mart, which has earned props from environmental groups for more than a decade of sustainability efforts

There’s something of an arms race toward sustainability among retailers. Target last year dethroned Wal-Mart for the first time as the top American business using solar energy, according to an October report from the Solar Energy Industries Association. This year, Target also has outlined an ambitious plan to reduce chemicals in consumer products, boost more sustainable packaging and use materials from sustainable forests.

For its part, Wal-Mart says it gets about a quarter of its global energy from renewable sources. Plus, by doubling the efficiency of its U.S. fleet from 2005 to 2015, the big-box retailer saved some $1 billion compared to a 2005 baseline. The company says that it’s the first retailer with a verified science-based target emissions-reduction plan. The company aims to reduce its absolute Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 18% by 2025, and it will also work to reduce CO2e, or carbon dioxide equivalent, emissions from upstream and downstream Scope 3 sources by a gigaton between 2015 and 2030.

“Climate change is one of the gravest threats we face. It also presents unlimited opportunities for companies that choose to lead. By taking a science-based approach to set such an audacious goal, Wal-Mart cements its place as a leader with Project Gigaton,” The Sustainability Consortium CEO Euan Murray said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “The Sustainability Consortium is proud to support Wal-Mart in this critical initiative and we look forward to helping them deliver.” 

Wal-Mart is also touting its stores and its omnichannel capabilities as drivers of sustainability, noting that stores that serve as “hubs of convenience” help reduce emissions because they are close to customers’ homes. The retailer says it also aims to “encourage larger in-store baskets and smarter online baskets” (including Jet’s “smart cart algorithm,” which ships from as few fulfillment centers as possible, to cut down on trips and deliveries, and minimize packaging by using custom packaging and delivery methods like drones and crowd-source deliveries that require less packaging.

“Through the years, we’ve seen that integrating sustainable practices into our operations improves business performance, spurs technological innovation, inspires brand loyalty and boosts employee engagement,” Laura Phillips, senior vice president of Sustainability for Wal-Mart, said in a statement. “Our suppliers recognize the opportunity to realize those same benefits in their businesses. By working together on such an ambitious goal, we can accelerate progress within our respective companies and deep in our shared supply chains.”

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Top image credit: Flickr user Walmart