At Walmart, our customers trust us to provide affordable, safe and healthier products for them and their families. We work continuously to earn that trust by advocating for them among suppliers and encouraging innovation and transparency about product development and production.
In the following discussion, we highlight our progress in four strategies:
Providing affordable healthier options
We aspire to be the most affordable food retailer, especially when it comes to healthier foods. We also aim to bring about significant and lasting improvements in the food system overall—drawing on our expertise in food production and distribution, our relationships with food producers and suppliers, our purchase orders and our philanthropy. Last year, Walmart U.S. completed an ambitious program launched in collaboration with former First Lady Michelle Obama to make the healthier choice the easy choice by reformulating food to reduce added sugars, sodium and trans fat; more clearly labeling nutritious choices; lowering the price of fresh food; building stores serving food deserts; and educating people on nutrition. We continue such efforts in the U.S. and additional markets as outlined below.
One of the biggest barriers to making healthier choices is real or perceived high prices for those options. We’re working to find innovative ways to promote healthier lifestyles by making healthier food and wellness opportunities more accessible to our customers. Efforts in this area include:
- Providing access to fresh, affordable food. We operate more than 11,600 retail units worldwide, including more than 4,600 Walmart stores and more than 600 Sam’s Club locations in the United States. According to Forbes, that puts 90 percent of the U.S. population within 15 minutes of a Walmart store where they can find fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables and other nutritious and healthy foods. In 2011 we committed to saving our customers money on healthier food options. Over the last five years, we helped customers save more than $6 billion on fresh produce and reduced the price premium on better-for-you items across the store. We also committed to increasing access to these healthier food options. Last year we reported opening and operating 442 stores serving USDA-designated food deserts over the same five-year time frame.
- Encouraging consumption of healthier food. In 2012, Walmart U.S. formed a first-of-its-kind collaboration with Go360, a program offered by health insurer Humana, to bring eligible customers affordable healthier foods. These customers take an online health assessment and are then issued discounts on Walmart Great For You products, which are healthier foods that meet rigorous nutrition standards. The resulting model is a win-win-win: Walmart increases sales of Great For You products; Go360 promotes healthier lifestyles, lowering health care costs; and customers save money on healthier food options and, over time, may see improvements in health indicators such as high blood pressure and obesity.
- Increasing access to health screenings. In October 2016, Walmart launched “Walmart Wellness Day” in our U.S. stores as a way to improve customer access to health and wellness opportunities. Customers received, among other things, free blood pressure, blood-glucose and vision screenings. Over the five Walmart Wellness Days combined, we’ve supplied more than 9.3 million product samples and provided more than 1.1 million health screenings.
We continue the efforts we started in 2011 by working with suppliers to improve food formulation. Examples of our work in Walmart U.S. in this area include the following:
- Reducing sodium, added sugars and fat. Since 2011, we have reduced sodium by 18 percent, added sugar by 10 percent and removed all industrial-produced trans fats in our private brands—well ahead of regulatory guidance. We will continue this work, aspiring to support a diet that reduces sodium.
- Reducing additives. We have set a goal to work with suppliers to remove certified synthetic colors and artificial flavors, in products where customers don’t expect to find them.
Customers face numerous challenges in their attempts to maintain a better diet, from access to nutritious foods, understanding proliferating food claims, real and perceived high costs, and on-the-go lifestyles, just to name a few. We’re working to develop tools to help our customers identify better options.
- Identifying nutritious choices in store. We spent several years working with regulators and experts to develop Great For You, an on-pack icon to identify more nutritious options. Great For You products have met rigorous nutrition criteria, informed by the latest science and developed in consultation with food and nutrition experts. We are working to support similar nutrition guidance programs in select international markets.
- Highlighting better choices online. As customers come to rely more on digital channels, we’re not only increasing access to nutritious options through e-commerce, we are also providing more information about them. For example, Walmart.com now has a page dedicated to Great For You, which defines the program and provides Great For You-inspired recipes.
In 2014, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation set a goal of providing nutrition education to 4 million people by 2020. These efforts are focused on encouraging people to prepare meals at home and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption. Since we initiated our commitment in 2014, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation funded nutrition education for more than 2 million people. Our work in this area includes the following:
- Encouraging consumption of fruits and vegetables. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation support programs which teach about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and provide opportunities to taste new foods.
- Encouraging meals prepared at home. We support programs that help families build the skills needed to produce healthier meals at home. Supported programs deliver classes on cooking, shopping skills and helping families make the most of the healthy food resources available to them. We especially focus this work on reaching communities with education that is culturally and geographically relevant. For example, a $2.5 million grant by the Walmart Foundation to National 4-H will focus on expanding nutrition education across the U.S. for rural and urban youth, with a particular focus on reaching Hispanic and Native youth.
- Building capacity of the field to measure success. The Walmart Foundation developed a guide to help organizations find appropriate evaluation tools to measure the impact of their nutrition education programs.
Promoting food safety
Walmart is committed to selling food and products that meet high standards for safety. We’re using our purchasing decisions to support food safety around the world, including in our own stores. Today, most customers are farther removed than ever from food production, yet they are keenly interested in where their food comes from, how it was produced and with what ingredients. Examples of our work in this area include the following:
We launched the Walmart Food Safety Collaboration Center (WFSCC) in China in FY2017 to bring together local and international research into the root causes and prevention of foodborne illness. The WFSCC, which is a collaborative effort among industry, government and academia, seeks to identify solutions for improving food safety in China. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation plan to invest $25 million over five years on projects to advance food safety in China as part of this effort. The funding will support projects in innovation, education and policy support. Projects supported to date include:
- Walmart, IBM and Tsinghua University are collaborating to pilot a blockchain-powered food traceability system in China. By harnessing the power of blockchain technology designed to increase transparency and efficiency in supply chain record-keeping, this work aims to help enhance the safety of food for Chinese consumers.
- An initiative with China Children and Teenagers Fund focused on educating children and parents across China on safe handling of food in the household.
- A collaborative research project bringing together U.S. and Chinese academics (from University of Arkansas, South China Agricultural University, China Agriculture University, Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences) and Chinese poultry producers to study causes of foodborne disease in Chinese poultry supply chains.
- A collaborative research project, bringing together the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Zhejiang University and Tsinghua University, that seeks to use supply chain analytics and state-of-the-art technology to rapidly predict and detect those areas of greatest vulnerability for food adulteration in food supply chains.
With the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act in 2011, we recognized the need for a system to help provide visibility into the operations of our food suppliers. In 2014, we launched the Supply Chain Transparency project. The system improves the identification and tracking of food suppliers, their facilities and the products they provide to Walmart stores. The system can also track whether suppliers are in compliance with both regulatory and company requirements. We are proud to announce that we deployed the system to many of our U.S. food suppliers in FY2017, and it is currently being adopted by Walmart’s Responsible Sourcing department to track their compliance requirements. We expect to begin launching it in international markets next year.
Over the past several years, there have been multiple high-profile outbreaks of salmonella in the United States involving poultry. Salmonella rates in 2012-2013 in the United States remained unchanged from 2006-2008, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In light of this, Walmart launched the Poultry Safety Initiative in 2014 with a goal of reducing the prevalence of salmonella bacteria found in chicken products. In complying with the initiative, suppliers must meet four requirements that help reduce the risk of salmonella throughout the supply chain, from primary breeder to final process controls. Early testing has shown promising results.
The dietary supplement industry has long utilized a confusing array of retailer standards and certifications. Walmart is collaborating with other retailers to develop the Supplement Safety & Compliance Initiative (SSCI), a pioneering initiative focused on strengthening safeguards and helping to ensure authenticity and regulatory compliance of dietary supplements. The SSCI, which is modeled after the Global Food Safety Initiative, is designed to provide a benchmark and a single certification indicating that the manufacturer has met a recognized high standard throughout the supply chain. Such benchmarking against common standards has proven to be effective in enhancing consumer safety and allowing consumers to have confidence in the products they purchase.
Walmart plays an important role in the lives of millions of customers each day, bringing them safer, affordable food. Our efforts to help our customers learn how to buy, store and prepare food safely include the following:
- Teaching safe cooking techniques. In partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we created a video airing in more than 500 Walmart stores during peak grilling season to educate customers on the use of food thermometers, especially when cooking poultry.
- Developing consumer education materials. Walmart is working with the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the Ad Council to help drive the national food safety education agenda and promote information sharing among food safety stakeholders. The Partnership uses science-based resources to reach consumers in the U.S. and brings together food industry, food science academia, nutrition and health consumer groups, the USDA, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration. The Partnership provides consumers and food safety educators with key resources and advice on how to increase public awareness of foodborne illness prevention.
- Providing interactive educational resources. In FY2017 we worked with the USDA’s Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education to create a targeted food safety education outreach program for customers and associates, using the USDA’s Discovery Zone mobile unit. The Discovery Zone delivers food safety information to improve public food safety awareness and behavior, ultimately helping to prevent foodborne illness.
- Using social media to communicate safety tips. We connect with our customers through multiple social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest to provide important food safety tips such as proper cooking temperatures, safe food handling during grilling season and holiday food safety practices.
Promoting sustainable chemistry
Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club have worked with the Environmental Defense Fund and a range of other NGOs, suppliers, academics, government and industry stakeholders to encourage more sustainable formulations for the consumable products we sell, including categories such as household cleaning, personal care, baby, pet, beauty and cosmetic products. Walmart annually reports progress on its sustainable chemistry commitments on corporate.walmart.com.
In coordination with scientific experts and industry groups, Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. have identified high-priority chemicals (HPCs) and priority chemicals (PCs) to reduce, restrict or eliminate from products based on informed substitution principles. We are also working to make it easier for customers to find out about the ingredients in their favorite products.
- Measuring our chemical footprint. In 2013, we made a commitment to reduce, remove and restrict the use of HPCs and PCs. For the first time, we reported progress on removal of HPCs and follow-through on our commitment to disclose the list of HPCs. Approximately 90,000 SKUs and 700 suppliers are covered by our U.S. chemicals policy. We initially focused our attention on HPCs, as they possess certain properties that can affect human health or the environment. We made those HPCs public on corporate.walmart.com this summer. To date, based on supplier-reported data, our suppliers have successfully removed 96.45 percent of those HPCs by volume weight from the products we sell in Walmart U.S.
- Collective action to drive innovation. To achieve safer formulations on a larger scale, we participate in a number of stakeholder initiatives, such as the Beauty and Personal Care (BPC) Initiative, led by Forum for the Future, a nonprofit organization working collaboratively to build better systems for a sustainable world. The BPC has launched an industry leadership group to address the fundamental barriers to safer and more sustainable products. To help spur innovation on preservatives, Walmart is participating in the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council’s (GC3) crowd-sourcing competition for new preservative technologies based on green chemistry principles, alongside other retailers, personal care and household product manufacturers, preservative makers and nongovernment organizations.
The combination of safety, affordability and product performance is important to Walmart—and to our customers. We are taking the following steps to make sure our customers can find products with the attributes they desire:
- Safer Choice certification. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Safer Choice certification program helps businesses and their customers find products that perform well and that are designed to be safer for human health and the environment. We continue to make progress in developing private-brand products with the safer choice certification. In FY2017, for example, we launched a line of Safer Choice dish soaps.
- Expanding assortment. In addition to the work of private-brand suppliers in utilizing the EPA’s Safer Choice program, Walmart U.S. is expanding its assortment of more sustainable products from brands our customers love. We are now proudly offering California Baby, a women-owned line of natural and organic products for families.
- Helping customers search for products. We are also making it easier for customers to shop online for products they want. On Jet.com, we offer a range of filters to make it easier for customers to find products that are Paraben-Free, Sulfate-Free, Cruelty-Free, BPA-Free and Natural.
Fostering animal welfare and responsible antibiotic use
Walmart believes that animals should be treated humanely throughout their lives and that antibiotics should be used responsibly to preserve their effectiveness in human and veterinary medicine. Walmart expects that its suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse, and we support the globally recognized “Five Freedoms” of animal welfare:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst
- Freedom from discomfort
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease
- Freedom to express normal behavior
- Freedom from fear and distress
We are committed to working with suppliers and other organizations to implement practices consistent with these freedoms and with the judicious use of antibiotics. Our key initiatives in this area include the following:
We gathered and analyzed 134 responses to our animal welfare survey from Walmart U.S. suppliers totaling over $15 billion in sales. The following are some highlights from the year:
- Setting the baseline. In FY2017, we surveyed suppliers on animal welfare and antibiotics to help us understand approaches across meat, dairy and farmed seafood supply chains to support the implementation of Walmart’s corporate positions and policies.
- Developing metrics for animal welfare. Walmart will incorporate The Sustainability Consortium’s (TSC’s) new animal welfare surveys into its 2017 Sustainability Index, based on an in-depth development effort led by TSC involving Walmart, other companies, NGOs, veterinarians and other animal welfare experts.
- Monitoring for pork. We launched a tracking and audit program for our fresh pork suppliers in 2014. By the end of 2018, our goal was to have implementation video monitoring on sow farms for 100 percent of our supply. We are currently 81 percent toward achieving our goal. In addition, each fresh pork supplier is required to conduct an annual internal animal welfare audit in accordance with the standards of the National Pork Board’s Pork Quality Assurance® Plus program.
As part of our animal welfare position, we called for the industry to find and implement solutions to animal welfare concerns, including housing systems that lack sufficient space, enrichment or socialization such as battery cages for egg-laying hens and gestation crates for pigs. Through our antibiotics position, we called for judicious use of medically important antibiotics and elimination of the use of any antibiotics for growth promotion. Examples of specific programs include:
- Working toward cage-free eggs in select markets. Based on customer feedback in FY2017 Walmart U.S and Sam’s Club U.S, released a comprehensive welfare position on eggs, in which we set forth a goal to transition to a 100 percent cage-free egg supply chain, subject to regulatory changes and based on available supply, affordability and customer demand. Sam’s Club U.S. is piloting an accelerated approach, and has already converted 100 clubs to be almost exclusively cage-free. All of our shell egg supply at Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. is required to meet United Egg Producers animal welfare requirements or equivalent. Our Asda and Walmart Canada businesses have also announced similar goals for the transition to cage-free eggs by 2025.
- Reducing use of antibiotics. We have worked with our suppliers to increase the amount of antibiotic-free chicken and turkey we sell. We are seeing increased customer demand in this category as well as substantial sales growth in FY2017, and we expect this trend to continue.
- Progress from our suppliers. This year, our supplier Perdue showed leadership in committing to improved poultry welfare. It is studying and implementing new space guidelines, piloting an enhanced light regimen and enrichments, and working toward converting processing to pre-shackle stunning.