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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U.S. Manufacturing

Meet Homestar: Building a Future Through Building Furniture

Willie Grant likes to get his hands dirty – and he’s grateful to say that for the past three years, he has had the opportunity to wake up every morning and do just that.

As a maintenance tech at the Homestar factory in Statesville, North Carolina, Willie holds one of the most important jobs on the plant: He fixes the machines that make it possible to produce up to 7,000 units of ready-to-assemble furniture daily.

“My role here is to see that Homestar succeeds,” Willie says. “These are good people, and I don’t want to see anybody get hurt.”

But hard economic realities often make meaningful work difficult to come by. Willie knows from personal experience how hard it can be to lose a job with no warning. In 2008, he faced a series of layoffs because companies were shutting down their factories in the U.S. and sending the work overseas. As a family man with strong sense of responsibility to his wife and four children, he felt helpless to care for the people he loves the most.

When Willie began looking for work again, he had already lost trust in the companies offering him work – he even rejected a job offer with a factory that ended up shutting its doors to American workers only six months later.

“When you’ve been knocked down like I have, it’s really hard to build that trust in a company,” Willie said, “but I’m not a failure, I’m a provider.”

Finally in 2013, Willie’s brother told him about Homestar, a new company committed to hiring American workers and promoting employees from within. After going in for an interview, he recognized something special – and thanks to the commitment Walmart has made to source an additional $250 billion in U.S. products from suppliers like Homestar, Willie and his coworkers can again do the most important work in their lives: provide for their families. Now, they have something to work for again – something to be proud of.

“Every day is not peaches and cream, but we know we have something to fight for,” Willie said. “Walmart coming together with Homestar, it’s a great feeling … It gives us that feeling that we have security now. It gives us that drive to come to work every day and do what we do, and do it the best. Just the thought of knowing that the product we make, here in America, is on the shelves at Walmart – it’s an amazing feeling.”

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Sustainability

Entertain the Idea of Less Waste this Holiday Season

My favorite part of the holidays is inviting my friends and family over to bake cookies, share treats, trade gifts and laughs.

With everyone’s busy schedules, this time of year may be the only opportunity we have to enjoy simply being together.

I love to entertain, but if I’m being honest, there is one thing I am not so thankful for: post-party cleanup.

It’s not the icing smudges on the table or the cookie sprinkles in the carpet that bother me the most. It’s the mountain of packages and wrapping created from these wonderful celebrations. The only lasting effect I want from my party is happiness – not a large addition to the local landfill.

Keeping my waste low and recycling as much as possible is important to me and many other customers. In fact, according to the Carton Council survey, 91% of customers expect food and beverage companies to actively help the recycling of their packages and 95% believe if more people recycled, it would help the environment. But recycling isn’t always easy. According to EPA reports, in 2013, more than 35 million tons of packaging was put into the landfill, the equivalent of over 230,000 Olympic swimming pools full of usable materials.

For more than a decade, Walmart has been working to reduce waste in its operations, and this November, our CEO Doug McMillon pledged to work with our suppliers to reduce product and packaging waste and preserve natural resources. The goal is for Walmart’s private brand packaging to be 100% recyclable by 2025. This is building on the announcement of Walmart’s new Packaging Playbook encouraging suppliers to optimize their designs, source sustainably and support recycling.

My company has inspired me to do more to recycle and buy more products that create less waste. Here are a few of my new favorite items along these lines this holiday season. What are yours?


1. Children’s character watches – These fun watches show your child’s favorite characters. Previously, they were packaged in a large plastic clamshell that was not recyclable, and now they come in a fully recyclable cardboard holder, making it easier to touch and see the product.

2. Barbie Fashionistas Doll – Lots of fashion and fun are delivered in a smaller package. This Barbie comes in a box that uses 10% less materials and is made of PET plastic, so it is 100% recyclable in most U.S. communities.

3. SoapBox soaps and lotions – I love giving gifts that help my family pamper themselves. Soapbox products come in recyclable containers, and for every product you buy, the brand donates a bar of soap to aid organizations in the U.S. and globally.

4. Enviro-Log – I love curling up to the fire with friends. This product is made from 100% recycled waxed cardboard and helps give that material another use rather than sending it to a landfill.

5. Hefty disposable cups – Have a cup of cheer because these cups feature the How2Recycle labeling system. This labeling system uses large logos that clearly indicate what is and is not recyclable. (P.S. In the coming months, customers will see How2Recycle labels on some of Walmart’s Great Value and Equate brand products, with more to come.)

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Life

#FiveThingsFriday: News for the New Year

ICYMI: It’s two weeks into 2017, and we’re back from the holidays with these highlights: honoring a great teacher in North Carolina, hosting Clemson’s cool trophy at two stores in South Carolina, and opening even more Academies in five communities across the country.

Mr. Bonner’s Neighborhood

Michael Bonner is a second-grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary, which is located in a neighborhood with a high poverty rate in Greenville, North Carolina. Despite these circumstances, Mr. Bonner has found a voice to inspire his students through unique and fun lesson plans and activities. He’s truly making a difference in his community, so we were excited to donate $25,000 to his school on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Keep up the awesome work, Mr. Bonner!

Clemson’s Trophy Travels … to Walmart

Clemson Tigers fans in South Carolina have until 7 p.m. tonight to get a close-up look at the shiny new College Football National Championship trophy, which has been on display at Walmart Supercenters in Central and Easley this week before it goes to live forever at the Clemson University campus. Craftsmen at the Polich Tallix fine art foundry in Rock Tavern, New York, spent three months shaping the trophy out of 24-karat gold.

Get to Know Your Health Stats

If you’ve been putting off your 2017 resolution to finally start being healthy, this Saturday, Jan. 14, might be the perfect time to kick off change with Walmart Wellness Day – the country’s largest single-day health fair. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time, visit one of more than 5,200 Walmart and Sam’s Club locations to receive free glucose, blood pressure and vision screenings – and for the first time, body fat and body mass index testing. Product samples and health insurance information will also be available to help you get going in the right direction.

SCORE One for Small Businesses

For the fourth year, the American Small Business Championship is back. This annual competition celebrates small business owners and entrepreneurs from across the nation. The winners (two small businesses per state) will receive $1,000 Sam’s Club gift cards and an all-expense paid trip to train and network at an event in Dallas. Sam’s Club serves more than 600,000 small business owners each week, so their sponsorship of this program is one way they help support those members. If you are a small business owner or know someone, you can sign up here!

Academies Across America

Setting our associates up for success is a huge priority. In 2016, we opened 40 Walmart Academies, dedicated locations where hourly supervisors and department managers can receive hands-on training that combines both the classroom and the sales floor. This week, we kicked off the new year with five additional locations: Coventry, Rhode Island; Hatfield, Pennsylvania; Florence, South Carolina; Plover, Wisconsin; and Shawnee, Kansas. By the end of 2017, we’ll have 200 total locations and will have trained more than 200,000 associates.

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Business

3 Predictions for the Future of Retail – from the CEO of Walmart

What will shopping be like in 10 years? No one knows all the details (that’s exciting!), but one thing is for sure: it will be very different than it is today.

Editor’s Note: This piece by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon was originally published Jan. 6, 2017 on the World Economic Forum’s website.

History is clear about that. In the mid-19th century, most people in the U.S. were shopping at small markets. They would tell the manager what they wanted, and then wait for the item to be retrieved from the back or from the supplier. After that came the urban department store, supermarkets, then strip malls and discount stores.

Today, the pace of change is rapid. Ten years ago most customers were reading about the original iPhone, and wondering whether it would be useful. Now they expect to order something on their mobiles, have it delivered or pick it up in store – often on the same day, in a few hours, or even in a few minutes.

It’s up to retailers to adapt to these changes – and in some areas even lead the way – or they’ll fall behind and disappear.

Here’s what customers can expect their shopping experiences to be like 10 years from now:

1. Customer empowerment and even greater influence
Customer satisfaction has always been the number one goal for retailers, and in the future, customers will be more empowered than ever to drive the change they want, as they get more control over their shopping experience.

Technology – the internet, mobile and analytics – is being used to do anything and everything a customer doesn’t want to. Customers want to explore. But they need to have easy access to items they choose to use all the time. The historic trade-off between price and service has been altered by technology and customers expect to save time and enjoy the experience while saving money. They’ll fulfill their everyday needs – items like laundry detergent, paper, light bulbs, grocery staples and shampoo – in the easiest way possible through a combination of stores, e-commerce, pick-up, delivery and supported by artificial intelligence. Customer desires – think emerging fashion, fresh produce, and items they’ve never seen before – will still be fun to explore in stores as well as with technology (think virtual reality).

Retailers that provide a truly unique, enjoyable experience and prepare their associates to provide excellent service will have the advantage. At Walmart we already see the value customers place on personalization and convenience, through our success with grocery pick-up and delivery in several markets around the world.

With the growth of the internet of things, customers will enjoy an increasingly connected or “smart” shopping experience through a network of connections linking the physical and digital worlds into an ecosystem of devices, including vehicles, stores and software. The internet of things, drones, delivery robots, 3D-printing and self-driving cars will allow retailers to further automate and optimize supply chains too. Both sides of the equation – demand and supply – will change dramatically.

In addition, customers will continue to demand transparency around pricing and the supply chain. They’ll have less time to research the products they buy – but they’ll care even more about how they are sourced. They’ll choose to shop with retailers who provide that transparency so they can feel good about the items they purchase. This will require retailers to work with manufacturers to source items responsibly and sustainably. Retailers who do this and share the information will further earn customers’ trust.

2. I’ve seen what you have and I want it, too
Customers all over the world now know, and can see, what people in other countries have, and they want access to it all. And they want it now. Chinese customers want access to Louis Vuitton bags from France and milk from Australia. Not long ago on a visit to Nigeria and Ghana, I asked one of our local store managers what his one wish would be. His answer: “I want you to put a Walmart Supercenter like the ones you have in the US right here and let me run it. My customers and my family have seen what you have and we want it, too. We want those items at those prices.”

As Tom Friedman taught us, the world got flat and now it’s moving fast. The world needs inclusive growth provided in a sustainable manner. People are demanding it.

3. Shared value
With all these changes, retailers will only survive if their business creates shared value that benefits shareholders and society. Social and environmental sustainability will be engineered into our systems, and that will strengthen the communities in which we operate, which will in turn appeal to customers. These changes, however, will require new levels of cooperation and collaboration between retailers and NGOs, governments and educational institutions. Basically, we’ll design retail and other businesses so that all stakeholders (as many as possible) benefit: customers, associates/employees, shareholders, the communities we serve and those in the supply chain.

At Walmart, we’ve already found that investments in training, education and wages for our associates have resulted in higher customer satisfaction. Our customers want our associates to have a great life and they want to see that reflected in their attitudes and the service they provide.

When it comes to environmental sustainability, retailers and policy-makers face new challenges with the increase in packaging waste and emissions that comes with the growth of e-commerce. Shipping packages one at a time is not only wasteful and environmentally unsustainable, it isn’t cost-effective. The demand for convenience will force retailers to come up with new ways to ship items – in batches vs. one at a time – that are better for business and the environment.

While all these changes pose big challenges for retailers, they also represent unprecedented opportunities to innovate on behalf of customers and create new job opportunities for retail associates. I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in retail, to be at the forefront of change and part of an industry that has the potential to provide a better life for millions around the world.

This piece draws on a new report, Shaping the Future of Retail for Consumer Industries, which can be read here.

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