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

Checking Your Grocery List, and Getting it Right

People want to save money and time, so it's no wonder online grocery shopping sounds so appealing. Open your browser, click the grocery items you need, and let someone else do the shopping for you – right down to loading them in your trunk, right?

That’s exactly why Walmart will be expanding its online grocery service to nine more new markets this month, such as Columbus, Ohio; Omaha, Nebraska; and Raleigh, North Carolina. But our customers want more than just the ability to click and shop from the comfort of their own homes or workplaces. They want to know the perfect tomato – or better yet, banana or avocado (because those can be especially tricky) – finds its way into their grocery bag every time.

Before we began expanding the service to more markets, we worked tirelessly for quite some time to pilot and modify our online grocery service – and that’s because we’re committed to getting it right every time. The key to how we build a trusting bond with customers rests with our managers and, most importantly, our personal shoppers. We select only the best of the best for this critical role, and each associate undergoes rigorous training.

Selecting great produce and meat is essential. Personal shoppers not only learn the art of selecting these items by look, but also by touch and smell. For example, when a customer selects strawberries, our personal shoppers peek through each side of the carton. Similarly, finding the perfect pineapple or cantaloupe requires extra time – and we make the time. When our personal shoppers are gathering frozen and refrigerated items, they work quickly to select those items and return them to a designated, temperature-controlled holding area to ensure quality is not compromised.

But all the training in the world can’t account for everything. That’s where personal relationships matter.

Our promise to customers is that we’re not just here to gather their groceries. We learn their names.  Over time, we’ll get to know whether they prefer softer or firmer avocados, because we understand that texture makes a difference if you’re adding a slice to a salad or mashing it for guacamole. And as we get to know our customers more, we can begin to know which customers are fans of yellow bananas, and which opt for slightly green for a longer shelf life.

We’re in the business of saving our customers money so they can live better. In our eyes, taking grocery shopping off a customer’s growing to-do list, while ensuring quality and convenience every time – that’s definitely living better.

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Sustainability

In eCommerce Packaging, Sometimes More Equals Less

About a year ago, Walmart assembled a team from all over the company to focus on ways we could continue improving the online shopping experience. The feedback we received was tremendously helpful, but there was a surprise. An overwhelming majority of customers took it upon themselves to elaborate on an unsolicited topic: The size of our boxes.

Over and over again, our customers expressed a desire for us to reduce our packaging. That’s what they were talking about, so we immediately shifted our focus to follow their lead. And that shift has created the potential for huge results.

In the world of e-commerce, several factors have to be taken into account when reducing packaging. Because these items are being shipped great distances and handled multiple times, we must ensure the proper amount of cushion and protection. Ultimately, it’s about the product arriving at its destination undisturbed.

Through data analysis and extensive testing of potential solutions, we’ve developed a way to improve cardboard box utilization by more than 30%, without sacrificing product protection. If scaled over our entire e-commerce operation in the U.S., this effort has the potential to reduce cardboard box consumption by 7.2 million cubic feet annual, roughly enough to fill 82 Olympic-size swimming pools. It also translates into the ability to pack more products into the tractor-trailers we put on the road.

We took everything from order trends and history, to the size of boxes used at our fulfillment centers, into account. We developed several new box sizes and put them to the test – first with a couple of hundred orders, then with 10,000 orders. Then we piloted the program across an entire fulfillment center and, ultimately, concluded we could maximize efficiency by expanding our assortment of box sizes from 12 to 27.

Soon, we’ll implement the program at a second e-commerce fulfillment center and, eventually, across the organization. But the key to success will be our ability to customize the program to the needs and orders of every facility. In fact, this program will have to be continuously monitored and adjusted to meet changing needs. What is achievable at one facility with an assortment of 27 boxes may require an assortment of 40 boxes at another. And we’re up to that challenge.

The bottom line is, we recognized an opportunity by listening to our customers, and we acted on it. Great things happen when you take time to listen.

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Innovation

Open, Scan, Done: The Case for Walmart Pay

Thumbing through multiple gift cards at the register. Scrambling to find the one receipt you need to return an item. Trying to remember whether you need a refill for your prescription or not. We’ve all been there.

But why? We live in a digital world. We receive alerts about news breaking around the world in real time, rather than waiting for the Sunday morning newspaper. We can control temperature in our homes, lock doors and set alarms from our smartphones. So it’s time for the retail industry to step up – to allow customers to shop in new ways.

With the development of Walmart Pay – a new feature built into the Walmart mobile app that allows customers to use a smartphone to pay for in-store purchases – we weren’t focusing on payment for payment’s sake. We set out to marry our physical and digital assets to create a more seamless shopping experience for customers. We designed Walmart Pay to work with almost any smartphone and accept almost any payment type, even allowing for the integration of other mobile wallets in the future. And beginning this summer, it will work at every one of our stores across the U.S.

So, if you take a moment to activate the new Walmart Pay feature on your Walmart App, your next checkout really will be as simple as one, two, three.

If you discover the shirt you bought a few weeks ago doesn't fit, there’s no more keeping up with a paper receipt. It’s now stored electronically and at your fingertips because you’ve used Walmart Pay. Have a handful of Walmart gift cards you’ve been meaning to redeem, but hate the thought of handing them over one by one? Load your gift cards into Walmart Pay, and your balance will be ready with a single scan the next time you check out.

The best part is that none of your payment card information is stored on your phone or at the point of sale. Everything with Walmart Pay is stored in a secure, cloud-based environment. No payment credential is ever transmitted at the physical register, so you can rest easy knowing those details are safe and protected.

More than 20 million customers actively use the Walmart app each month, checking in to pick up an online order at a Walmart store, refilling pharmacy prescriptions, finding an item’s location within a store, and tapping into our popular Savings Catcher feature. When we set out to develop Walmart Pay, we’d asked ourselves how we could make shopping even faster, easier, more convenient and secure for our customers.

We’ll continue to find new ways of merging our physical and digital assets to produce a better, more convenient shopping experience. That’s what our customers demand and it’s what they deserve.

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Opportunity

From Iraq to Egypt to the American Dream

It was an early morning in 2005, and Jalal Almomar was driving to his job with the United Nations in Baghdad. A bullet came screaming through his windshield. He was unharmed, but definitely shaken.

“I knew my family and I had to flee because extremists were everywhere,” Jalal explained. “Our lives were in danger, so we left quickly. So quickly, in fact, that many belongings – including my own wedding photos – were left behind.”

The Almomars fled to Egypt and, by 2009, made the decision to put down roots in the United States. But the American dream didn't immediately show itself. Even though he had two college degrees, Jalal quickly realized he was starting over. 

“We showed up in Michigan, without a car and without really knowing how we were going to make a living,” Jalal said. “But what I did have was ambition. I knew my degrees weren’t going to translate, but I needed to move forward. I just needed someone to open the door to give me that chance.”

Jalal spent the next six months walking as far as his legs would carry him, often times through the snow, to hand his resume to company after company. He kept his fingers crossed, and eventually, Walmart called.

“That call meant everything,” said Jalal, who gained U.S. citizenship in October 2014. “A Walmart store gave me a job working in its garden center. I was so thankful because that job allowed me to start providing for my family again. I was ready to start working my way up and, through its Lifelong Learning education programs, I realized I was going to have every opportunity to do so.”

Jalal used his ambition to not only earn promotions working in his store, but tapped into Walmart’s partnership with American Public University and earned his MBA in Global Business Management. As part of his MBA, Jalal interned with Walmart’s innovation department, and recently graduated from our Replenishment Leadership Program. He has transitioned to the corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where he now works as a replenishment manager. And, with support through the Walmart Dependent Scholarship Program, his children are pursuing their own college degrees.

“All I needed was a chance, and Walmart gave that to me and so much more,” Jalal said. “It helped me realize the American dream is alive and well.”

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