Sustainability

Feeding the World Demands Change from Farm to Fork

Last weekend, in the wake of one of the longest, coldest winters in recent memory, my family and I walked in the spring sunshine, past stands of oaks and blossoming redbuds, along the winding trails of Crystal Bridges.  We love our new Ozarks home, and have been reveling in the signs of spring all around us. We are excited to celebrate Earth Day in “the Natural State” of Arkansas.

Here at Walmart, we’ve been marking Earth Day with the release of our Global Responsibility Report and the renewal of our commitment to sustainability. While we are proud of our progress in energy, waste, and product chains, we have a long way to go.  

Nowhere is this more the case than in the food chain.  In the next 30 years, the world population will approach 9 billion, putting further stress on already-strained natural capital.  As the world’s largest grocer, we are concerned with one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to help provide people on every continent with food that is safe, affordable, and sustainable for people and planet.


No one can solve this alone.  Progress will require collaborative problem solving among people all along the food chain – from farmers and fishers to transporters, development agencies, manufacturers, scientists, activists, regulators, retailers and consumers.  It’s why, for example, Walmart recently joined USAID’s groundbreaking Global Development Lab, along with a number of other organizations, to develop innovative solutions to development challenges such as this.

Will you join Walmart and so many others in creating a more sustainable food chain? Here are just a few of the ways we are trying to make a difference, from field (and ocean) to fork:

Resilient sourcing: We’re working with farmers to adopt innovative agriculture practices that preserve the environment and are fair to the people who use them. For example, we are working with partners on technologies to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and to conserve water; and we recently joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food Program – an initiative to improve farmworkers’ working conditions and wages.

Waste reduction: We’re addressing food waste all along the chain - for example, by gleaning fallen produce from the ground, and making use of an entire crop.  We cull fresh food from our stores before it goes bad, so that instead of becoming waste sent to landfill, it gets sent to hunger relief organizations and then on to people who need it most.  

Food safety: Walmart was the first U.S. grocer to require suppliers of food products such as produce, meat, fish, poultry and ready-to-eat foods to have their factories certified against one of the internationally recognized Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. We are bringing our food safety approaches to our operations around the world, including not only North America, but in many countries across Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Food security and access: Improving access to affordable food is a core part of our business strategy. It’s why we’re saving customers more than $1 billion each year on fresh produce and opening stores in food deserts. Earlier this month, we announced the rollout of affordable organic foods under the Wild Oats label.  And for years, we’ve worked with food banks to provide more links from our stores and suppliers, as well as the infrastructure to support a permanent cold chain – all in an effort to route millions of pounds of food to communities that need it most.

Making healthy easy: Of course, it’s not just about feeding the world – it’s about feeding families well. So we’re taking the homework out of healthy shopping, working with suppliers to reduce sugars and sodium and remove trans fats in everyday foods, while making the more nutritious choices easier to spot with our Great For You icon in stores. We’re providing tips and tools for how to turn these foods into simple, healthy and delicious meals, and working with valuable partners to educate families on cooking skills and nutrition.

We are committed to using our strengths – our market access, investment dollars, technological expertise and scale – to help others.  Please join us; bring your unique strengths to the table, and work with us, to set the table for everyone. 

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Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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Sustainability

One ‘Perfect’ Solution for Saving Ugly Apples

As the world’s largest grocer, Walmart knows food waste is a big issue.

For more than a decade, we’ve been doing our part by changing the way we do business and working to create a zero waste future, especially where fresh produce is concerned. Last week, my colleague Frank Yiannas wrote about our dedication to reducing food waste in the U.S., outlining our progress and the ways we’re making a difference with innovative date labeling, as well as the Spuglies potato launch and our wonky veg program at Asda.

Now, we’re excited to announce that after months of discussion, a brand of apples from Washington state, called “I’m Perfect,” will make its debut in Walmart stores this week. One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits. While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.

These “beautifully imperfect” apples will eventually be available in 12 varieties from Granny Smith to Red Delicious. For now, about 300 stores in Florida will offer the apples in five-pound bags.

From helping our growers find alternate uses for these less than gorgeous fruits, such as making apple juice or selling small apples for lunch kits, we are committed to identifying options to get less than perfect fruit to market and thereby reduce this type of food waste.

What excites me the most about the launch of these “I’m Perfect” apples is that it is a result of working with our suppliers to build the infrastructure and processes that create a new home for perfectly imperfect produce. Because ugly produce can occur unexpectedly in any growing season or crop, we want to have the systems in place to offer this type of produce whenever it may occur.

The “I’m Perfect” product is just one example of the ways we are aiming to reduce food waste, supporting growers, and providing value to our customers.

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Community

Making Room to Provide the Gift of Vision

The ability to see is personal for me because my vision began to deteriorate when I was a child.

One day, I couldn’t see the chalkboard anymore. I couldn’t read the letters. Since then, I’ve had to wear either glasses or contact lenses. So I can relate to someone who does not have the ability to see. Vision and its connection to daily function and providing for your family is significant.

My distribution center, Walmart Optical #7054, started donating warehouse space to RestoringVision – a nonprofit that helps get glasses to those in need – two years ago, and recently, RestoringVision received a massive gift of eyeglasses that they had nowhere to house. Because ours is the only optical-focused distribution center within Walmart’s supply chain, I knew we would be uniquely equipped to help.

When major donations arrived, Walmart volunteers got to work in preparing these donations for shipment around the world. As we continue to work on this, the Walmart Foundation matches our volunteer hours with donation money that is passed along to RestoringVision.

When I hear the stories of how people can now provide for their families because of the work of RestoringVision, I instantly feel a sense of pride that we are a part of that mission. Helping people live better is what we do at Walmart. The partnership that we have established with RestoringVision is one way that we are better able to achieve that goal.

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Sustainability

New Initiatives Taking a Bite out of Food Waste

With 795 million people in the world reportedly going hungry, food waste is an ugly problem to face. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that consumers throw away $29 billion worth of edible food each year in their homes. Walmart is especially concerned with reducing food waste – not only because we’re the world’s largest grocer, but as an integral part of our EDLC philosophy that provides you everyday low prices.

Two culprits of food wastage are confusion caused by food labels and the tossing of imperfect, but perfectly usable, fresh produce.

Consumers often mistake date labels as food safety indicators; however, most of the labels are created based on peak quality. Adding to the confusion is the different language used on labels, including “best by”, “use by” and “sell by”. That’s why, in the last year, we started requiring suppliers of nonperishable food products under our Great Value private label to use a standardized date label, “Best if used by”.

The switch will go into full effect this month and involves thousands of products.

What really got our attention was a report released in 2013 by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America. My team has been working on a solution since then.

After surveying our customers about how they would choose a food label that indicated a change in quality but not safety, there was a clear winner: “Best if used by”. I expect the standard labels to have an even bigger impact on waste reduction since many of our suppliers sell products under their own labels outside of Walmart. This is significant, as the global economic impact of food wastage comes to about $750 billion each year.

Although food waste has been making headlines in recent months, including an in-depth article in the Guardian, Walmart has been doing its part for more than a decade to create a zero waste future by affecting change in the way we do business and throughout our supply chain, especially where fresh produce is concerned.

For years we’ve worked with farmers to repurpose fruits and vegetables that may be slightly blemished or oddly shaped. These items usually make up a very small part of a harvest and aren’t a major contributor to food waste; however, we know every bit counts. A customer may not take home a triangle-shaped apple from our produce bins, but that apple is just as tasty when made into apple juice.

Earlier this year we began selling Spuglies, Russet potatoes that were less than perfect on the outside thanks to rough weather in Texas. Working with our supplier, we found a way to offer these at a value price. Our wonky veg test at Asda in the UK was so popular, we now offer it year round when farmers have enough supply.

Because customers around the world shop very differently, our team here in the U.S. has been working for months on our first spec for this type of produce. We’re exploring the ways to make these items available while providing value to our customers and supporting farmers.

Our efforts don’t stop there. In 2009, Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. launched a first-of-its-kind organics recycling program nationwide. As of 2015, the equivalent of more than 25,000 tractor-trailers full of food waste has been diverted out of the waste stream through composting, conversion to animal feed and energy production through anaerobic digestion.

In 2015, Walmart began selling garden products from Ecoscraps, a company that turns food scraps into organic and sustainable lawn materials such as compost, potting mixes and plant food. To date, our sales of these products amount to more than 2.4 million pounds of food waste diverted from landfills.

Another recent collaboration is preventing millions of eggs from being thrown away annually.

Food waste is a big problem that will only get bigger as the world’s population grows. Countries around the globe are realizing we’re not going to be able to produce our way to feeding 9 billion people, so we have to reduce food waste now.

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