Sustainability

Walmart’s Commitment to Solar

Walmart’s commitment to solar energy is nearly a decade old — a decision we made for many reasons. For one, using the power of the sun and installing solar panels lowers our energy costs and is clearly good for the environment, but another benefit is that it keeps prices low for our customers.

Since 2007, when we made a formal commitment to being more energy efficient, we have taken significant steps toward making that a reality, including solar installations and even eco-roofs. But we’re always looking to build on that success, so we’ve continued our goal setting in this area.

This week we signed on to the Department of Energy’s Better Building’s Initiative, which commits to reducing the energy intensity of Walmart U.S. buildings by 20 percent versus 2010 by 2020. And today we announced that Walmart will double the number of solar energy projects in the U.S. and Puerto Rico by 2020.

Our commitment to solar has paid off. In fact, since our first on-site solar installation in the U.S. in 2007 we have become the No. 1 commercial solar energy user according to the Solar Energy Industry Association and are now recognized as the largest on-site renewable energy user in America by the EPA’s Green Power Partnership. Our efforts have even been publicly recognized by President Bill Clinton. And today, of course, President Obama made a visit to a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif. to highlight the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy in keeping America strong.

At the end of 2013, we had more than 335 renewable energy projects in operation or under development across our global portfolio. These projects provide our facilities with more than 2.2 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable electricity annually. Together with renewable electricity from the grid, 24.2 percent of our electricity needs globally are supplied by renewable sources.

What’s more is that last year we committed to driving the production or procurement of 7 billion kWh of renewable energy globally by Dec. 31, 2020. We’re already 32 percent of the way there, but we’re not finished. And we’re doing even more to meet that goal, including:

  • Walmart U.S. installed 240 solar projects through 2013, saving approximately $4.8 million. Walmart U.S. grew its number of fuel-cell sites to 42, each site providing 40 percent to 60 percent of store needs. These new systems bring us closer to our anticipated total of more than 1,000 projects worldwide.
  • Walmart’s first 1 MW wind turbine completed its first year of operation. It provides approximately 15 percent to 20 percent of the total electricity required by our Red Bluff Distribution Center in California.
  • Walmart Mexico broke ground on four large-scale renewable energy projects that will be completed in 2014. Combined, these projects will add 252 megawatts (MW) of clean energy. Walmart Mexico is on track to supply 60 percent of its energy demand needs for 1,233 stores through renewable energy by the end of 2014. 
  • Walmart Brazil entered a bid to purchase green power on the open market sourced from sugar mill, hydropower and small hydropower plants. To date, 84 stores are being served by this clean energy, with an expected savings of 11.5 percent on each store’s energy bill. Eventually, 97 stores will be served through this green power bid.

Our work in renewable energy is an ongoing process, one that we are fully committed to because the future of the environment depends on it—and our customers deserve it.
 For more details on our approach to renewable energy, please read our white paper on the topic.

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Life

From Lanterns to Lions, Ringing in Chinese New Year

Feb. 8 marks the start of Chinese New Year, China’s most important celebration for families. Also known as the Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is a weeklong public holiday during which families celebrate a year of hard work and wish for good luck in the coming year.

Those shopping in our stores in China see lots of Chinese New Year decorations and traditional foods stocked for this busy time. For readers who aren’t in China, here’s some background on the celebrations.

Traditional Family Meals

Before the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar, people all over China travel to their hometowns to unite with their families and decorate their homes in red — a color that symbolizes good luck and joy — and prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations. The night before the Chinese New Year, we prepare a feast made up of symbolic foods:

  • In Chinese culture, a fish course represents wealth in the future, while peanuts signify longevity and good health.
  • Some food symbolism in Chinese New Year dishes is more visual, such as hot pot, which involves simmering meat and vegetables in a round pot at the center of the table. The shape of the pot represents perfection and satisfaction.
  • Dumplings are an example of a food with a more historical tie because they resemble the gold currency — Yuanbao — used in ancient China. Today, dumplings are still thought to signify wealth in the coming year and are a delicious treat stuffed with different fillings.

Celebrations

Like with New Year’s Eve in the U.S. and other western countries, Chinese New Year involves staying up late. We light firecrackers at midnight, a tradition that dates back to ancient folklore. Though the New Year is a cause for celebration now, legend has it that Chinese villagers used to stoke their fires with bamboo to keep away a terrifying, sharp-toothed monster that arose from the sea at the end of the lunar year to prey on people and livestock. Now, we use firecrackers to celebrate the new year and also scare off any bad luck that might be on the horizon.

Celebrations culminate in the Lantern Festival, where people gather to admire the illuminated lanterns (some floating, some carried by children, some fixed as decorations) and guess riddles written on them. On New Year’s Day, people also watch lion dances, in which participants don elaborate, mythical lion costumes that seem larger than life — and eat rice dumplings.

One of our family traditions is for children and grandchildren to wish elders in the family good wishes for the new year and, in turn, the elders will give children a red envelope of money for good luck and to buy toys and books.  Children often sleep with the red envelope under the pillow to bring good luck throughout the year.

The Year of the Monkey

This year is the year of the monkey, the ninth of 12 animals in the recurring 12-year Chinese zodiac cycle. People born in the year of the monkey are believed to be energetic, witty and mischievous. I look forward to greeting the year of the monkey surrounded by my family and enjoying the snacks and festivities that come with the celebrations. No matter your Chinese zodiac, may the New Year bring good fortune to you and your family!

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Sustainability

Hold the Salt: A Story of Reformulating Food

Big change is coming to the grocery aisles.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has mandated that partially hydrogenated oils – most commonly found in industrially produced fats and oils – be eliminated as a food ingredient by June 2018. Research clearly shows a link between trans fats and cardiovascular disease. So a timetable has been set to take action.

A big reason why I work for Walmart is that we’re constantly looking for ways we can help people live better – oftentimes, before federal mandates like these are handed down. In fact, by the end of this month, we anticipate having successfully removed all partially hydrogenated oils from Walmart private brand food – such as Great Value – sold in our U.S. stores, a goal we’ve been working toward since 2011. But we’re not stopping there.

Simultaneously, we’ve been working to reduce sodium in Walmart’s private brand foods and national brand food products by 25% and added sugars by 10% by the end of December 2015. We’ve long since surpassed our sugar-related reformulation goal. And, while we’re tracking about 5% behind our sodium reduction goal – results through December 2015 are being vetted and will be announced publicly this spring – we continue to work toward completion and are proud of the precedent we're setting across the grocery industry.

There have been some big wins along the way to help us move the needle. One example was when we set out to reduce sodium in all varieties of Great Value Potato Chips and Great Value Kettle Cooked Chips. We successfully removed a combined 30 tons of sodium from 36 million bags of chips annually. And, according to test data, we did so without compromising taste. To put that into perspective, 30 tons is equivalent to an entire Walmart truck (cab and trailer) or about 70 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

In the end, every slice of progress in the reformulation of the thousands of private and national brand food items Walmart sells contributes to a healthier tomorrow for our customers. But the reality is, you can’t simply go out and turn the dial down on sodium, sugar and trans fats and say, ‘We’re there. We did it.’ Our palates are accustomed to certain tastes, so the key is taking small, incremental steps toward long-term change. You're basically giving consumers’ palates a chance to adjust rather than shocking them all at once.

Every step forward involves extensive time, testing, evaluation and more. Many of the wins we’re realizing today are several years in the making – and, in most cases, there was no road map for how to get there. As senior director of private brand food initiatives, I’ve been deeply entrenched in helping develop a road map. We recognized, for example, that the majority of sodium in the diet of the average American comes from processed foods. So we’ve focused our efforts on the 47 most popular processed food categories, which include such examples as cheeses, cereal, crackers, canned tomatoes and more.

One interesting discovery along the way was that the sodium within the recipes of our own Great Value breads varied from one production facility to another. So by working with each facility to understand needs and challenges, we were able to develop a standardized process that, in turn, helped produce long-term results in sodium reduction. There are a variety of hurdles and challenges to reformulation work within private brands, and there is the potential for even more with national brands. But we’ve already proven that, with a relentless work ethic, real progress can be made in the areas of sodium, sugar and trans fat reformulation. We continue to identify and zero in on additional opportunities.

There was a day when all of this seemed so overwhelming. But we’re creating a road map. We’re building best practices. We’re growing relationships, learning from our experiences and helping to influence a healthier tomorrow. 

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Opportunity

Path from Army to NASA Leads to Walmart

I can still remember how the walls shook each time one of the space shuttles launched. Even though the launch pad was seven miles away, everything around me shook like an earthquake.

As a satellite engineer, I got to be close to the action. I had a lot of great experiences during my 13 years with NASA. I worked as a satellite controller – including the Hubble – and even built and tested rocket launching systems. It’s something I will never forget!

When my shuttle site was deactivated in 2012, that left me needing to find another job. I ended up moving from Florida to Wyoming to work as an engineer for a satellite TV company for a year. After experiencing a harsh winter and a nearly fatal car accident, I was ready to move back. 

I was excited to be coming back to what I considered my home state. I wasn’t born there, but Florida felt like home from the instant I arrived. It’s also where I wanted to start life with my soon-to-be husband. It was easy to make the decision to move back, but what I didn’t expect was how hard it would be to start a brand-new career there. 

I was very fortunate to have had a solid work history and had even spent eight years in the Army supporting communications for the Pentagon and the White House. I thought I had a great background that would help me easily find a new career, but I was trying to find a new job right when unemployment was high. It was hard for everyone to find work. I went on interview after interview, a lot of them hourly jobs, each one telling me that I was overqualified. What none of them understood was how badly I wanted to work and contribute to something bigger. It was hard being without a job and to be continually told no.

I applied at Walmart, but expected the same answer. It was an hourly job in a store – there was no way they’d tell me yes when so many others had said no. I’m so glad they proved me wrong.

Because Walmart gave me a chance, I can make Florida my permanent home and build a life here. They knew that the leadership and problem-solving skills I’d learned in the Army and at NASA would help me be a great associate. My experiences taught me how to manage people well and get them focused on the task at hand. And being in the Army taught me how to take the resources I had, analyze the situation and create quick and efficient solutions. All of these things really help you when working in a store.

I was hired as an electronics associate at store 1172 in Jacksonville, Florida. It was challenging and fast-paced. I loved helping people and I brought that attitude to work with me every day. After only a year, I was promoted to Homelines department manager. I’ve been with Walmart for just over two years now. I tell every associate that if you work hard, are conscientious, use initiative and quickly take care of the problems you see – you’ll be recognized. I only see opportunity here – there’s no limit to where you can go. What’s my next step? I love people and leading teams, so I hope to work my way up to be an assistant store manager soon.

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Innovation

What is OneOps? Why We’re Sharing It

Walmart is undergoing a digital transformation. We’re bringing together our online and mobile expertise with Walmart’s stores to serve customers in new and better ways. Whether we’re making enhancements to Walmart.com or launching a new feature in online grocery, a powerful piece of software we built called OneOps has made it easier and faster for our software developers to make an idea a reality for our customers. 

This week, we began offering OneOps to the public as an open source project. “Open source” means any developer inside or outside of Walmart can use, change and adapt OneOps software to make it better. That’s good news for customers, and good news for companies who want to bring new experiences to these customers faster.

Read more about this launch and what it means on TechCrunch.    


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