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: The Beauty of Convenient Shopping

ICYMI: An investment in jobs sometimes means an investment in ordinary things … like socks. Check out this news, plus a few new ways to shop with convenience.

Sock it to Me

I’ve lived in the Sooner State, the Natural State, and the Windy City, but I’m thinking the Sock Capital of the World might be worth a visit. Last week, we signed a deal with Renfro Corporation as a part of our commitment to buy $250 billion in products that support American jobs. Renfro has been supplying Walmart with socks and hosiery since the 1970s, and this deal is expected to bring more than 400 manufacturing jobs to Fort Payne, Alabama.

Best in Beauty

It’s nice to pick up a surprise find on a routine shopping trip. But it’s even nicer when someone compiles a list of these surprise finds in one place for you. The good folks at Refinery29 have selected 12 of what they’re calling the “coolest and cheapest” beauty finds at Walmart. They’ve got everything from moisturizer to curling irons for your next impulse purchase.

It’s Like a Tiny Walmart … at a Big Walmart

We’re always testing new things at Walmart, from the latest technology in supercenters to completely new kinds of stores. In Crowley, Texas, we’ve opened one of two Walmart convenience stores (the other opened in Rogers, Arkansas). This little guy is about 2,500 square feet and located in the parking lot of the Crowley Walmart store. You can get gas, ICEEs, hot dogs, and most of your typical c-store fare. If you’re in the area, stop by and let us know what you think.

Welcome to the Family, Moosejaw!

The Walmart brand expanded this week with the acquisition of online outdoor retailer Moosejaw. The Michigan-based company has a great online presence plus 10 physical stores. They’re going to be joining our growing e-commerce team and we couldn’t be happier to have them aboard! Plus, it’s fun to say. Moosejaw … moosejaw…

The Science – and Smart Business – of Sustainability

Thinking green isn’t just good for the environment – it’s also good for business. Did you know we save $1 billion a year through improved fleet efficiency (read: ensuring our trucks are saving as much fuel as possible) alone? If you’re curious about how these efforts translate into real change, check out this piece in Environmental Leader.

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Sustainability

How We’re Staying On Track to Fight Climate Change

When you pick up a product at Walmart, a number of questions may come to mind: “What’s in it? Where was it made? Will it do what I need it to do?” What you may not always be thinking about is that item’s impact on the environment.

More than a decade ago, Walmart’s then CEO set us on a journey to dig deeper into our business to find ways to provide products that are better for both people and the planet.

Fast-forward to last November, and our current Walmart CEO Doug McMillon issued a new challenge: ensuring that our business can continue delivering sustainable products for generations to come. He laid out our leadership position in the fight against climate change through a commitment to set science-based targets, and Walmart became the first retailer to have its goals approved by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Why is setting science-based targets important to Walmart? We know global climate change can pose a threat to our country’s economy and global supply chains — threats such as lower crop yields, increased health costs and disaster-caused property losses. Walmart and other retailers would face a number of challenges if our complex supply chains were weakened by climate-related issues. Addressing climate change is a win-win: good for society and good for Walmart.

There is great opportunity for businesses to address these issues before they happen. By taking the right steps now, we can help reduce risks, lower costs and strengthen supply chains – all while we help the customers of tomorrow get the products they want, when they want them, and at lesser impact to the environment.

Here’s a closer look at what we’re doing.


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Opportunity

A Walmart Department Manager Graduates to Her Next Step

When I was a student at the University of Indiana, my Walmart job was simply a way of paying bills. After graduation, I was encouraged by my store managers to stay, as they saw promise in me. Thirteen years later, I’m still here. So I fully understand the opportunity that exists to start a career.

Today I’m a co-manager at a supercenter in Beech Grove, Indiana, and it’s awesome to watch others take that same journey. One young woman I recently crossed paths with – Kinder Kaur – is the most passionate associate I’ve ever met. Recently she worked her way up to managing an entire department.

Rewind this story back to 2006. Kinder was a first-generation immigrant from India here with her husband and son trying to make a better life. She worked in an audiovisual business that her husband owned and also as a restaurant server for two and a half years. Next, she got experience in retail as she worked in their family-owned convenience store. Wanting a change, Kinder decided to come to Walmart. She started in our back room, unloading and stocking inventory.

It’s hard work, but Kinder excelled. Her attention to detail made her stand out. Seeing this, I thought she would be a good candidate to try something new: being out on the floor. While she was nervous, with a little support from her team she was ready.

Fast-forward to last fall, and Kinder was shining. She loves being out on the floor interacting with customers, and her sharp eye really matters in the beauty department, where smaller items like nail polish and hair dye need to be meticulously organized.

Not too long ago, our store manager encouraged all of us to apply to enter the company’s new Academy program, where associates can receive extra training that better equips them to help customers. Kinder was a natural candidate, and after completing the program, she participated in her first graduation.

In Kinder’s native India, graduation ceremonies aren’t common. Although she completed high school, she had never worn a cap and gown. Putting on these pieces was an extremely proud moment for Kinder and her family. Her son, Gurpreet, who works in electronics at Walmart, also graduated with his mother. It was awesome to see such a great day of celebration for their family!

Everyone I see return from the Academies training is more excited and attentive than before. They’ve returned with a fresh mindset about how to take care of customers. These Academy locations are opening nationwide almost every week, and soon there will be thousands of associates who’ve graduated.

The Academies program is empowering associates across the country to take charge of their careers. But even better, it’s harnessing the passion of people like Kinder, which is a huge step forward in also transforming our shopping experience.


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Business

Galentine's Day: A Fun, Fresh Way to Celebrate the Ladies in Your Life

If you’re a fan of the NBC television hit Parks and Recreation, you might already be familiar with Galentine’s Day – a celebration of female friendship that occurs near Valentine’s Day (usually Feb. 13).

Observed by having a girls’ night out (or in!), or exchanging gifts, it is not meant to substitute for the traditional hearts-and-flowers holiday, but rather a way to acknowledge the members of your #squad who are there for you year-round.

This year, 1,000 Walmart stores are helping customers celebrate with new Galentine’s Day themed merchandise: decorations, party supplies and gifts. While still as adorbz as the traditional Valentine’s Day options, these products are a bit more grown-up, with metallic touches and crafty accents that are cute without being cutesy.

According to a recent report from the National Retail Federation, one in five people who celebrate Valentine’s Day plan to buy gifts for their friends. We talked with our seasonal buyer Wendy Milstead about why Galentine’s Day made sense for Walmart.

How long has Galentine’s Day been on your radar?
We’re always looking for new ways to delight customers. We started working on the Galentine’s Day program last April. It was a reimagining of our “Anti-Valentine’s Day” assortment that featured sayings like “Cupid is Stupid.” We wanted to do something with a more positive message.


How does Galentine’s Day merchandise differ from traditional Valentine’s Day merchandise?
These products are “aged up” with fun phrases and really developed with our customers in mind. Whether it’s the tassel garland with metallic accents or foodie enamel pins with matching "punny" sayings, we wanted to add in a bit of glamour to this fun, empowering holiday.


What’s your favorite item from this collection?
Definitely the plastic wine glass – it’s an assortment of two designs, “cheers my dear” and “sisters before misters." It comes in giftable packaging, and at $1.98 a pop, who wouldn’t guzzle this up?


What did you learn from launching this program?
We always rely on data, but sometimes when you launch a new program, you just have to go with your gut. Luckily I had great support from my managers, who encouraged me not to be afraid to fail. That’s how we stay on the forefront of the industry and work to lead the way.

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