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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Life

#FiveThingsFriday: A Young Santa Claus, Equality Honors, and Hatchimals are Hot

ICYMI: A kiddo Claus gives back, a Walmart bike makes a memory, cops bring Christmas to kids, the Human Rights Campaign recognizes Walmart, and Hatchimals are coming back to shelves.

Santa Kid

Our littlest customers turn out to have the biggest hearts. A few months ago we talked about Madalyyn’s benevolent birthday and now Noah Vinot is demonstrating the true meaning of Christmas. Noah is 7 years old and raised more than $500 to buy gifts for kids in need; he even chipped in all of his birthday money. We were so inspired by Noah’s generosity that we matched the funds he raised, allowing him to purchase five carts full of merchandise for local children.

Cruisin’ the Katy Trail

We all know we should get out and enjoy nature more, but LaWanka Mallard has a head start that will put many to shame. LaWanka’s friend Vickie set a goal to bike the 238-mile Katy Trail in Missouri, and she decided to tag along. So, not only did LaWanka set out to do this at age 74 – she did it on an old-fashioned cruiser bike that she picked up at Walmart for less than $90 … while Vickie pedaled along on her fancier 24-speed bike. Reading their story is pretty inspiring. However, I don’t know if I’m ready to start out on 238 miles on my cruiser. Maybe 238 feet and then work my way up.

Shop With a Cop

Noah, our Santa Kid, isn’t the only one demonstrating the true spirit of Christmas. Across the country, police departments are bringing kids into their local Walmart stores to shop for Christmas for themselves and their families. From Texas to Maryland, officers are accompanying dozens of kids and spreading a little extra cheer.

Standing for Inclusion

Walmart’s culture is built around four basic beliefs, and “Respect for the Individual” is one of those. We’re proud to embrace the unique qualities our associates bring to the company and we’re honored to receive a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s 2017 Corporate Equality Index. It’s important that we create an inclusive environment for our associates around the world and we’ll continue to work toward that commitment.

Hot Toy Hatching

If you have children, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts they’re asking for a Hatchimal for Christmas. I have several grown adults in my office that are going mad trying to track one down for their kids, and according to the news they’re not the only ones. This hot toy, that is just like that one scene from a classic dinosaur movie, is coming back in stock at Walmart stores across the nation this week. So, keep an eye out and happy hunting!

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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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Business

When it Comes to Holiday Cheer, Ugly Sweaters Aren’t Wearing Out

A few years back, it was easy to dismiss ugly holiday sweaters as a fad. But this trend has not only taken root – it's stronger and tackier than ever.

The reason is simple: People are looking for happiness and joy during the holidays, and these sweaters make people smile. They spark conversation at parties. They’re fun – and we all need more fun in our lives.

Each year, we’ve seen this new December staple get uglier and more unexpected. And, while Walmart has been front and center in providing affordable, fun options for customers to purposefully “ugly” up their holiday wardrobes, we’ve gone all out this year.

We not only increased the volume of ugly sweaters in our stores, we added several with fun features. Some have working Christmas lights. Some of our sweaters – including a reindeer print – even sing to you. And since November, the women’s elf sweater dress we created has been flying off the shelves as fast as we’ve been able to stock it.

We’ve also ventured beyond the traditional adult sweater. We have a line of ugly sweater-themed T-shirts, with everything from Christmas trees and snowflakes, to gingerbread zombies and Star Wars characters, for men, women and children. We’re even offering ugly holiday sweaters for dogs.

I have to tell you, as a buyer and as a part of the team responsible for creating these sweaters, it was an absolute blast bringing some of these wacky ideas to life. The whole process of adding functioning lights into clothing, battery packs for sound and more – every detail mattered. We knew people would be talking about those items, but we also had to make sure it was going to be easy to remove and reinstall those components before and after the sweaters go through the washing machine. They’re fun but still functional.

We looked at all the details, like, is Santa’s nose pointing the right direction? Is it ugly in the right way? You want to turn heads, but you also want to be sure you're creating options that a teacher feels good about wearing in front of a class, for example.

So we’re proud of what we’ve created and thrilled by the positive response from customers. We’ve even heard about people doing ugly holiday sweater fashion shows. Supporting this tacky tradition is one way we’re helping make the holidays affordable, while also putting a smile on customers’ faces. And it makes our jobs a whole lot of fun.

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Business

The Pie Chart: Sweet Stats on America’s Favorite Flavors

For many, dessert is the best part of the meal. It’s that special treat that can brighten up any day.

During the holiday season, sweets get a whole new spotlight. Pies in particular can be found on many families’ tables from Thanksgiving through Christmas all the way until year’s end.

Last year, pies at Walmart gained new celebrity appeal with the release of Patti LaBelle’s signature sweet potato recipe. Thanks to a viral video – and pleased palates across America – they have been a hit ever since.

All of this talk about pies got our minds (and stomachs) wondering. With seemingly unlimited pie flavors, we wanted to know which one reigns supreme with our customers’ taste buds. We took a look at our last year of sales, and put together a pie chart (see what we did there) to show the results.

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