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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Heritage

Remembering Don Soderquist, Retired Walmart COO

Walmart’s culture – defined by our core values of service, respect and excellence – has always been key to our success.

That culture lost a very significant champion this week, as Don Soderquist, a key member of our company’s leadership team until his retirement in 2002, passed away.

Don joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president of administration and logistics and was a driving force behind our company’s growth. In fact, he led us through a period of significant progress from 1988 to 1999 when he served as vice chairman and chief operating officer. During his tenure, the company’s revenue increased from $1 billion to more than $200 billion.

Don epitomized the term servant leader. He was always thinking of others, provided great feedback and was encouraging to so many people. He had a deep passion for integrity, and it was Don who drafted our original core values. Don became known as the “Keeper of the Culture” after our founder, Sam Walton, passed away because he not only helped define our values – he lived out our culture and spoke passionately about it year after year. He truly believed that ordinary people could do extraordinary things when they worked together, and he taught the beliefs and values that supported that conviction for the rest of his life. Even after his retirement, he invested his time and energy into many associates who still work for the company.

After retirement, he established The Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics in Northwest Arkansas to provide values-focused development training to future generations of leaders. In 2005, he wrote the book “The Walmart Way” to teach others how to apply the lessons that made Walmart successful to their own lives and careers. He was also involved in numerous charitable organizations and served on several corporate boards.

Don touched so many lives here, and he will be dearly missed by his family and all of us at Walmart.

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Sustainability

One ‘Perfect’ Solution for Saving Ugly Apples

As the world’s largest grocer, Walmart knows food waste is a big issue.

For more than a decade, we’ve been doing our part by changing the way we do business and working to create a zero waste future, especially where fresh produce is concerned. Last week, my colleague Frank Yiannas wrote about our dedication to reducing food waste in the U.S., outlining our progress and the ways we’re making a difference with innovative date labeling, as well as the Spuglies potato launch and our wonky veg program at Asda.

Now, we’re excited to announce that after months of discussion, a brand of apples from Washington state, called “I’m Perfect,” will make its debut in Walmart stores this week. One of the challenges growers have is that Mother Nature can throw a curveball such as a hailstorm, high winds or even a string of very hot sunny days, which can damage the exterior finish of fruits. While the texture and flavor remain perfect, the exterior damage usually renders these fruits unsellable in the fresh market because they fail to meet traditional grade standards. We’re proud to be the first retailer to bring these apples to you.

These “beautifully imperfect” apples will eventually be available in 12 varieties from Granny Smith to Red Delicious. For now, about 300 stores in Florida will offer the apples in five-pound bags.

From helping our growers find alternate uses for these less than gorgeous fruits, such as making apple juice or selling small apples for lunch kits, we are committed to identifying options to get less than perfect fruit to market and thereby reduce this type of food waste.

What excites me the most about the launch of these “I’m Perfect” apples is that it is a result of working with our suppliers to build the infrastructure and processes that create a new home for perfectly imperfect produce. Because ugly produce can occur unexpectedly in any growing season or crop, we want to have the systems in place to offer this type of produce whenever it may occur.

The “I’m Perfect” product is just one example of the ways we are aiming to reduce food waste, supporting growers, and providing value to our customers.

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Community

Making Room to Provide the Gift of Vision

The ability to see is personal for me because my vision began to deteriorate when I was a child.

One day, I couldn’t see the chalkboard anymore. I couldn’t read the letters. Since then, I’ve had to wear either glasses or contact lenses. So I can relate to someone who does not have the ability to see. Vision and its connection to daily function and providing for your family is significant.

My distribution center, Walmart Optical #7054, started donating warehouse space to RestoringVision – a nonprofit that helps get glasses to those in need – two years ago, and recently, RestoringVision received a massive gift of eyeglasses that they had nowhere to house. Because ours is the only optical-focused distribution center within Walmart’s supply chain, I knew we would be uniquely equipped to help.

When major donations arrived, Walmart volunteers got to work in preparing these donations for shipment around the world. As we continue to work on this, the Walmart Foundation matches our volunteer hours with donation money that is passed along to RestoringVision.

When I hear the stories of how people can now provide for their families because of the work of RestoringVision, I instantly feel a sense of pride that we are a part of that mission. Helping people live better is what we do at Walmart. The partnership that we have established with RestoringVision is one way that we are better able to achieve that goal.

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Sustainability

New Initiatives Taking a Bite out of Food Waste

With 795 million people in the world reportedly going hungry, food waste is an ugly problem to face. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that consumers throw away $29 billion worth of edible food each year in their homes. Walmart is especially concerned with reducing food waste – not only because we’re the world’s largest grocer, but as an integral part of our EDLC philosophy that provides you everyday low prices.

Two culprits of food wastage are confusion caused by food labels and the tossing of imperfect, but perfectly usable, fresh produce.

Consumers often mistake date labels as food safety indicators; however, most of the labels are created based on peak quality. Adding to the confusion is the different language used on labels, including “best by”, “use by” and “sell by”. That’s why, in the last year, we started requiring suppliers of nonperishable food products under our Great Value private label to use a standardized date label, “Best if used by”.

The switch will go into full effect this month and involves thousands of products.

What really got our attention was a report released in 2013 by the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America. My team has been working on a solution since then.

After surveying our customers about how they would choose a food label that indicated a change in quality but not safety, there was a clear winner: “Best if used by”. I expect the standard labels to have an even bigger impact on waste reduction since many of our suppliers sell products under their own labels outside of Walmart. This is significant, as the global economic impact of food wastage comes to about $750 billion each year.

Although food waste has been making headlines in recent months, including an in-depth article in the Guardian, Walmart has been doing its part for more than a decade to create a zero waste future by affecting change in the way we do business and throughout our supply chain, especially where fresh produce is concerned.

For years we’ve worked with farmers to repurpose fruits and vegetables that may be slightly blemished or oddly shaped. These items usually make up a very small part of a harvest and aren’t a major contributor to food waste; however, we know every bit counts. A customer may not take home a triangle-shaped apple from our produce bins, but that apple is just as tasty when made into apple juice.

Earlier this year we began selling Spuglies, Russet potatoes that were less than perfect on the outside thanks to rough weather in Texas. Working with our supplier, we found a way to offer these at a value price. Our wonky veg test at Asda in the UK was so popular, we now offer it year round when farmers have enough supply.

Because customers around the world shop very differently, our team here in the U.S. has been working for months on our first spec for this type of produce. We’re exploring the ways to make these items available while providing value to our customers and supporting farmers.

Our efforts don’t stop there. In 2009, Walmart and Sam’s Club U.S. launched a first-of-its-kind organics recycling program nationwide. As of 2015, the equivalent of more than 25,000 tractor-trailers full of food waste has been diverted out of the waste stream through composting, conversion to animal feed and energy production through anaerobic digestion.

In 2015, Walmart began selling garden products from Ecoscraps, a company that turns food scraps into organic and sustainable lawn materials such as compost, potting mixes and plant food. To date, our sales of these products amount to more than 2.4 million pounds of food waste diverted from landfills.

Another recent collaboration is preventing millions of eggs from being thrown away annually.

Food waste is a big problem that will only get bigger as the world’s population grows. Countries around the globe are realizing we’re not going to be able to produce our way to feeding 9 billion people, so we have to reduce food waste now.

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