Sustainability

Seeking: Leading Companies to Drive Renewable Energy Revolution

Editor's Note: Earlier this month, Walmart joined Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, and Sprint in signing the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Principles. The goal of these Principles is to increase availability of cost-competitive renewable energy to run their businesses and better communicate their purchasing needs and expectations to the marketplace. 

What can rotary dial telephones, cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and door to door milk delivery teach us about the renewable energy revolution? They show us how once commonplace products and services have and will always be replaced by newer ones. It’s not farfetched to say 2014 is to renewable energy what 1955 was to the CRT TV – the golden age of renewable energy is just now upon us.

Many of America’s largest companies are also convinced that a clean energy future is what they want, and they’ve set significant goals to get there. In fact, 43% of Fortune 500 companies have set renewable energy and efficiency targets, and – better still – 60% of the Fortune 100 have set targets.

These corporations are demonstrating real progress toward their goals. For example, Mars, Inc., a food company known for its chocolate products, recently announced that it will build a 200-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lamesa, TX, which, according to Mars, is the largest long-term commitment to renewable energy made by any food manufacturing business in the U.S. We read about other large deals nearly every day.

In the process of switching to renewable energy, companies have gained a great deal of experience. Unfortunately, this transition hasn’t been easy. Utilities have been slow to respond to their major customers’ needs. When the companies bypass their utilities to purchase renewable energy elsewhere, they are having successes, but face complex deals and financing arrangements making it hard to buy renewables at the scale they need.

What do the companies want? The companies want utilities, utility regulators, and providers of renewable energy to understand that they have large demand for clean renewable energy. The system that exists now makes it difficult to meet their goals. But companies are willing, and in many cases would prefer to work with all these key players to make renewable energy available more quickly.

In every other aspect of their business, companies are used to a competitive market for the commodities they buy. The best quality goods at the most favorable terms win the contract. However, where energy is concerned -- and particularly renewable energy -- companies have far fewer choices. In many markets, companies have no choice at all. In others, choices are extremely limited or require a price premium over fossil-fuel produced energy, in quantities too small to meet the company needs, and subject to ongoing price volatility. All in all, this hinders companies’ ability to meet their renewable energy targets and discourages the setting of more ambitious targets. We should be rewarding these corporate leaders trying to do the right thing with their energy use, not slowing them down.

On the upside, there is a huge opportunity available to utilities and renewable energy providers who can bring companies what they need. The companies that have signed onto the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles alone account for 8.4 million megawatt hours of demand per year, enough electricity to power nearly 800,000 homes each of the next few years. Many of these companies would prefer to meet this need by purchasing renewable electricity through their local utility companies, but if utility companies are unable to provide it, they are -- and will -- continue to go elsewhere.

A more robust, open renewable energy market with innovative tariffs would create the competition needed to encourage other companies to set and meet aggressive renewable targets, something that would literally benefit the entire planet. If that sounds like a good idea to you, we welcome more companies to sign onto the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles.

Intrigued? Shoot me an email and we’ll talk about meeting your company’s renewable energy targets. For utility regulators, it’s time to find out what your customers want and find a way to meet that need. If you don’t, someone else will.

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Innovation

Why Pickup is a Time-Saving Treat This Halloween

As a dad of three, I love planning for Halloween. My family and I start in September thinking about the perfect costumes for a fun season of parties and trick-or-treating. This year, my 3-year-old, 5-year-old and 7-year-old are obsessed with Star Wars, and we will be trick-or-treating as their favorite characters. My 3-year-old is particularly excited to be Darth Vader (or as he says, "Darth Tater" – how cute is that?).

If you’re a parent, you know that finding the perfect costume isn’t always easy, especially if your children – like most kids – like to change their minds a few times along the way. (Of course, that never happens in our family. Right, kids?) And once your costumes are set, the last thing you want is to find the store doesn’t carry the right size.

This year, Walmart is sparing customers from that hassle through a simple solution: making the majority of our in-store costumes available through same-day Pickup. Think of it like a reservation system. Simply purchase the item online and then pick it up in the store the very same day. As long as your child’s friend doesn’t snag the last one of your favorites, there are no unpleasant surprises, and no scouring the aisles for that perfect wig or mask. (One heads up: We expect superheroes to be one of the most sought-after costumes this year.)

We know that the way customers shop has changed – they expect a connected experience and depend on us to deliver it. With thousands of physical locations, plus online shopping and convenient services like Pickup, Walmart is uniquely positioned to serve customers anytime, anywhere for all their Halloween needs however they wish to shop.

For the past few years, I have been on the team that has been working to develop our Pickup program, so I'm especially excited about this. I recently took my family to our local store to test it out. We bypassed the aisles, went straight to the Pickup counter and, within minutes, my kids had their costume selections in hand.

Whether your family chooses to dress up as Star Wars characters or superheroes this Halloween, I hope you save time shopping so you can enjoy the fun stuff: parties, costume contests and trick-or-treating. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Editor's Note: Walmart has this Halloween's popular costumes and candy exclusives. For more information on this year's top items, click here.

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Sustainability

How Acres for America is Maintaining the Majestic Midwest

For generations, Midwesterners have retreated to the Arcadia Dunes preserve – an oasis along Lake Michigan – to connect with nature, climb the sand peaks and take in the enormity of America’s third-largest lake.

The 3,600-acre property, also known as the C.S. Mott Nature Preserve, offers public access to one of the largest remaining natural areas along Lake Michigan. There, visitors can partake in some of the Midwest’s best opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, birding and snowshoeing.

Back in 2003, the property’s owners planned to develop the land into a golf-course community with hundreds of homes and condominiums.

“That would have had a domino effect,” said Glen Chown, longtime executive director of the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, which owns and manages the property. “The development would have led to hundreds of additional homes nearby. Farming would have most likely been pushed out. There would be no public access anywhere.”

The conservancy led a massive campaign to raise more than $30 million to acquire Arcadia Dunes and secure conservation easements on other nearby properties. People rallied to the cause.

Through a combination of gifts large and small, the conservancy and its conservation partners raised nearly all of the required funds. To close the last gap, the conservancy applied for and in 2006 was awarded a $500,000 grant from Acres for America, a collaboration between Walmart and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

“The Acres for America grant helped us at a time when we had pretty much exhausted every opportunity,” Chown said. “Acres was our closer.”

Acres for America began in 2005, when Walmart made its first commitment of $35 million to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the United States for every acre of land developed by the company – approximately 100,000 acres as of today. The Arcadia Dunes project was one of the program’s earliest grants.

Ten years after the Arcadia Dunes grant was awarded, Acres for America has far surpassed its original goal with more than 1 million acres protected – an area comparable in size to Grand Canyon National Park. In November 2015, Walmart and NFWF announced a 10-year, $35 million renewal of the program.

By offsetting the land Walmart needs to operate with far more valuable land – both to wildlife and to people – the Acres for America program is making a real difference in the quality of life for local communities across the nation.

The preservation of places such as Arcadia Dunes show why Acres for America has become one of the most successful public-private conservation efforts in American history.

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Life

#FiveThingsFriday: Jet.com, a Special Surprise and Appreciating Associates

ICYMI this week: Walmart acquired Jet.com and expanded the way we serve our customers, Miss America Savvy Shields returned to her home state of Arkansas to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, and we’ve got Halloween decorations to make your house the spookiest on the block.

Walmart Acquires Jet.com

At the beginning of the week, we were excited to officially welcome a new company to the Walmart family. But why Jet.com? Our CEO Doug McMillon said it best: “Walmart and Jet.com obsess about saving customers time and money. By joining forces, we’ll be better at doing both, creating seamless shopping from app to site to store.”

A Special Request Inspires Custom Delivery

For the past three months, Danny Nolin’s Ocean Pacific striped T-shirt is the only one he’s wanted to wear. After being washed and worn dozens of times, the shirt finally ripped, and his family searched high and low for a replacement, only to find that it was no longer available in stores. After one of his relatives reached out to Walmart on social media, we were able to team with our supplier, dig through the archives and make 10 new shirts just for Danny.

Way to Go! Associates Earn Cash Bonuses

Our people work hard to serve our customers. So much so that 99% (!) of our stores met goals for cleanliness, faster checkout and better service in the second quarter. We were excited to recognize our associates’ hard work by recently paying out more than $200 million in quarterly bonuses to about 932,000 hourly associates.

Miss America Savvy Shields Visits Walmart

The newly crowned Miss America, Savvy Shields, made an appearance in Bentonville, Arkansas, this week to support a cause near and dear to her heart, bringing awareness to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. She toured a Walmart store and interacted with associates and customers all to raise awareness for the cause.

Have No Fear: Cool Halloween Décor is Here (All Under $18!)

You can always count on Walmart for some scary good deals. Check out some of the items we have this Halloween season to make your house one of the scariest on the block!

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Opportunity

This Mall in Indiana is Helping Retail Workers Succeed

No matter the job, real-world experience is the most valuable foundation for starting a career or advancing an existing one.

Training is a close second. But sometimes it’s unclear how both of these can move you forward, especially in the retail industry.

In Northwest Indiana, a new retail training lab is working to provide the answers.

Positioned in a local retail hub -- the Southlake Mall in Merrillville, Indiana – the retail training lab is a place where retail job seekers can take classes that cover the interpersonal and technical skills that are necessary to create an overall outstanding customer experience. Not only can workers gain this new knowledge, but they can also earn an official credential: Graduates can receive certifications in customer service and sales, loss prevention, retail management, and/or inventory management, all of which are recognized by the National Retail Federation and the Retail Loss Prevention Foundation.

While it may seem unusual to establish a training center in the middle of a shopping environment – for these students, it just made sense. Not only do participants have close access to technical instruction, but they can step out of the retail training lab and experience customer service and retail management in action, just by walking into one of the many stores in the mall.

A few weeks ago, the first round of graduates completed the NRF customer service and sales certification. I was taken aback by how passionate they were about everything they had learned, and as a previous store owner for 23 years, I knew that they were equipped with everything they would need to be successful in either starting or advancing in their careers. Not only were they armed with certified skills, but they were coming away with a renewed sense of confidence.

This lab, an initiative of the Northwest Indiana Workforce Board, was made possible through a grant from the Walmart Foundation to the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership, which has enabled us to offer classes at no cost. That strengthens employment opportunities for everyone who walks out of our doors. We’re excited to provide such one-of-a-kind service for jobseekers and employers in retail.

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