Sustainability

Helping Walmart Meet Sustainability Goals with Fuel Cell Technology

Sustainability is important to growing industry in the world we live in today. Leading corporations are always on the lookout for new ways to make operations cleaner and more environmentally friendly. Plug Power, the premier systems integrator for hydrogen fuel cell systems, provides companies with an economically viable solution to help them meet their sustainability goals.

Walmart specifically has made clear that they maintain three sustainability goals:

  1. To be supplied 100% by renewable energy
  2. To create zero waste
  3.  To sell products that sustain people and the environment

Through a partnership with Plug Power, companies like Walmart can get closer to meeting their objectives.
Since 2012, we have been working together with Walmart to bring a zero-emission power source distribution warehouses in North America. This depends on material handling lift trucks for moving pallets full of perishable foods and consumer products down from warehouse storage shelves and into delivery truck trailers.

Traditionally, lead-acid batteries have powered these warehouse lift trucks. But any grid-dependent power can be polluting, hazardous and wasteful. A fuel cell on the other hand, runs on clean hydrogen fuel. Plug Power’s GenDrive fuel cells are designed as a drop-in replacement for the batteries – you just pull the battery out of the forklift and drop in a GenDrive unit.

Not only do fuel cells produce only heat and water as a by-product, but they also eliminate the need for Walmart to use up valuable space on its warehouse floor for battery storage and charging. GenDrive fuel cells are easily refueled by the truck operator in as little as 60 seconds, significantly decreasing the amount of time lift trucks are not operational during the day.
 
To date, Walmart has more than 500 GenDrive fuel cell units in operation at several warehouses, including its Washington Courthouse facility in Ohio, and a fresh food distribution center in Balzac, Canada, considered the most energy-efficient distribution facility of its kind in North America.
 
Most exciting, Walmart is about to expand that number dramatically with a roll out that totals more than 1,700 new GenDrive units to be installed in forklift trucks at six more Walmart warehouses in North America.

Plug Power is making it much easier to bring sustainability to these new sites because it has become a one-stop hydrogen solution provider, delivering fuel cells, hydrogen, maintenance service and support.

Hydrogen-powered fuel cells emit only a small amount of heat and water, making them an environmentally-friendly alternative energy source. By using hydrogen fuel cells in material distribution warehouses, Walmart is deploying lift truck operations that are efficient, clean, quiet, and most importantly, sustainable.


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Business

#PattiPie, New Cobblers and the Evolution of Our Bakeries

When Patti LaBelle’s Sweet Potato Pie hit Walmart stores last fall, the demand for #PattiPie became so high we could barely keep enough of them on the shelves.

As a merchant for our fresh bakery, this was exciting news. It proved that the work by Kinna Thomas, our senior buyer of cakes and pies, and our entire team to provide premium goods baked with high-quality ingredients was not going unnoticed.

It also proved that taking the extra time and effort to think outside of the box whenever we’re developing bakery goods makes a real difference to our customers. Taking it to the next level for this holiday season, Kinna was reviewing Ms. LaBelle’s cookbooks and stumbled across one of her famous cobbler recipes. We knew how important it was to hit the mark perfectly.

After testing and trying out the product, I’m excited to announce that together, we’ve cooked up three premium cobblers in peach, apple and mixed berry flavors for #PattiPie fans to enjoy, starting Sept. 2. Not only are they packed full with quality fruit, they’re baked with two crusts – one on top and one on bottom – to ensure that sugary crisp bite.

Knowing that most cobblers on the market today are frozen, we worked to find the right supplier to create a unique fresh version. Turns out we had the right company with us all along: Twin Star Bakery out of Houston, who currently makes a number of decadent items for Walmart, including oversized sandwich cookies and specialty dessert cakes. As a matter of fact, the cobbler expansion will bring over a hundred new jobs to their factory.

In addition to the cobblers, we’re also bringing Ms. LaBelle’s apple pecan cake and sweet potato pound cake to select stores. The sweet potato pound cake was a joint venture to with a small Philadelphia business, Brown Betty Dessert Boutique. We will offer this delicious Southern-style treat in select stores in the Northeast.

The success of Patti’s sweet potato pie – and the resulting expansion of her personal recipe-based product line – is just one example of how we are working to transform our fresh bakery offerings through innovation. We are so proud to offer amazing new items across our entire bakery. Just last year, we added about 60 new items and we continue to innovate. Today, more than half of our items are prepared in our stores, and we’ve enriched our teams across the country with bakery technicians who’ve been training and helping our store associates to ensure everything comes out exactly right. On top of that, we’re simplifying our processes so that we can bake many different items at one temperature, allowing us to produce more fresh-baked goods for our customers every day.

It’s a sweet time to work in Walmart’s fresh bakery, and we’re excited to see our customers’ reactions as we work to deliver every ingredient just right.

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Sustainability

How One Small Farm Planted a Seed of Opportunity

For Juan Carlos Urquia, there was always an excitement associated with finishing his homework. It meant he could join his father on their small, 3-acre farm in the tiny rural community of Ocotal, almost three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.

As young as 5, he enjoyed helping his father raise and harvest corn, beans and cucumbers more than anything. He immediately sensed the responsibility of producing food people needed to survive. More than three decades later, Juan Carlos still finds joy in the field. Only, these days, his passion has evolved into an opportunity for his extended family and a growing number of others in the community to make a living.

Juan Carlos’ care and attention to detail sparked an opportunity to begin filling orders of several hundred cucumbers per week for Walmart in 2006. That opportunity has since grown to more than 25,000 cucumbers per week, and the family farm has spread to nearly 100 acres.

With access to stores across Honduras, Juan Carlos has created full-time jobs for 20 people, many of them siblings and cousins. And that has created work for nearly 100 others in the community who work to clean, process and transport the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions he grows, as well as those who supply fertilizer and other materials to sustain the operations.


The care was always there, even in the days when Juan Carlos was learning from his father. But, through support from Walmart and other organizations committed to delivering training and best practices to farmers in the areas of sustainable agriculture, efficiency and optimization, they’ve seized an opportunity. In fact, Honduran farmers sold more than $148 million in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and other perishables to Walmart in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 6.5% of the national agricultural gross domestic product and helped boost the country’s agricultural exports.

When Juan Carlos was a boy, he and his extended family all lived under his father’s roof. Through their commitment to the farm, he, his siblings and cousins all have their own homes today – and that’s something they’re extremely proud of. They're not just producing food. They're creating opportunity and raising the quality of life for those around them.

Small and medium-sized farmers around the world will be counted on to meet half the increased global demand for food and clothing through the year 2050, and Walmart has committed to specific goals to improve their livelihoods. You can read more about this work in our Global Responsibility Report.

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Opportunity

One Walmart Associate’s Path to the Pentagon

Since 1997, Luke McCollum has lived somewhat of a double life, holding careers at both Walmart and the Navy Reserve.

While a retail role and a government job may seem like an unlikely pairing, he says the blending of both worlds is what has prepared him well for an exciting next step: Navy Vice Admiral, where he’ll serve as the Commander of America’s Navy Reserve Force. This is no small promotion – President Barack Obama had to appoint him to the role.

While this means Luke will be leaving Walmart’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to work solely at the Pentagon, he says Walmart is a big reason why he’s able to take this new step. Why?

“Working here has made me a better Navy Reserve officer, and vice versa,” he said.

As vice president of Walmart’s logistics services, one of Luke’s duties is to oversee new distribution centers coming to life across the U.S. – from picking the location, to seeing it all in action with excited associates. He most recently experienced this with a new fulfillment center in Chino, California, and a new distribution center in Mankato, Minnesota. To Luke, it was exhilarating to see everything unfold, knowing that this would help serve customers better and provide new opportunities for our associates.

While his work and processes at Walmart are different than those at the Navy, he’s found common ground at both organizations in dealing with the large, complex and unpredictable. “In the Navy, we can never get comfortable because it’s always changing,” he said. “It forces us to think differently and strategically. We have to do a lot of that at Walmart, too.”

What Luke enjoys about both of his teams is their desire to learn new things. “I would be sitting in senior meetings in the Navy, and they would ask me how Walmart would solve a problem. The same happened in my Walmart meetings,” he said. “They have the appetite to change and grow. Both have had to evolve over the years. At Walmart, we try to understand how our customers have changed and how we can operate better to serve them. The Navy is no different. They serve a customer, too – the American people and the men and women on active duty.”

Having a really strong support system at home and at work is what has helped Luke hold down two careers. He gives a lot of credit to his family. When most people are heading home for the weekend, Luke has to get on a plane to the Middle East or the Pacific for another full work week. With a 24-hour flight back home and jumping right back into Monday, he doesn’t have much downtime. “You have to know what’s important because you can’t do everything,” he said.

Why do two jobs? For Luke, it’s all about the people. He thrives on seeing people do things they didn’t know they could do. “One of the definitions of leadership is to define reality, provide encouragement on the way and say thank you in between,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do that in both organizations.”

Luke is honored, humbled yet excited to take on this new job.

“I’ll miss my Walmart team, but my experiences here have prepared me well to take this next step,” he said.

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Community

When Disaster Strikes, Associates Provide Real-Time Relief

When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.

Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.

While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.

Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.

With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.

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