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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Business

Found: The Story Behind Our New Natural Beauty Routine

If you’ve ever tried shopping for naturally-inspired beauty products, you know the struggle.

They can be expensive. They’re sometimes not as effective. Makeup colors can be limited, and guess what? That means matching skin tones is a challenge.

As a buyer for cosmetics at Walmart, I’d begun noticing an industry trend, both from our customers’ feedback and focus groups: People care more than ever about the ingredients in the products they’re using. But this was also personal. I’m passionate about using natural ingredients in my home, and I was having trouble finding beauty products that looked good, felt good, and wouldn’t break the bank.

That was last year. Little did I know that a solution was soon to be found.

My team started looking into what it would take to develop naturally-inspired skincare and cosmetics, and that’s when we discovered Hatchbeauty, a company specializing in everything from the development to the marketing of innovative beauty products. They were eager to marry their beauty expertise with our retail expertise to create something truly unique and different – Found, a new line of naturally-inspired beauty products exclusive to Walmart.

Every item within Found highlights a “miracle” ingredient used in ancient beauty rituals. For instance, one of my favorite products, the illuminating drops, uses passionfruit oil to lock in moisture and nourish your skin. We’ve brought these ingredients to life to give customers an alternative featuring natural ingredients that can deliver the same results as traditional, high-end beauty products.

Helping develop Found has been one of the most meaningful achievements in my career, because it has been an intersection where my personal passion and my professional purpose collide. Walmart is committed to selling more products that benefit people and the planet. Found’s 130-product line is never tested on animals, and there’s even a Not Found list featuring what you won’t find in the products, like parabens and phthalates. Every product is 90-99% natural, and the percent of natural ingredients is front and center on every product.

Working with Tracy Holland, founder and CEO, Diana Madrid, COO, and Ben Bennet CCO, was a phenomenal experience, but I was impressed with the engagement from everyone on their team. From the owners to the brand managers to the chemists and product developers, everyone encouraged diversity of thought and inclusion, which made it possible for the customer to be the focus of our development process. I can’t count the number of times we changed direction on formulas, shade range or packaging based on customer feedback. For instance, we received customer feedback that skincare can be a confusing category to shop, so we broke down every item into one of three steps: cleanse, treat and hydrate. Found demystifies the process and helps customers focus on key items to build their regimens.

When I gave my first presentation to our leadership team, I asked them how my makeup looked, and they couldn’t believe everything I was wearing was from our naturally-inspired line. It’s one thing to develop these products – but it’s another thing entirely to actually wear the products and love them! Found has truly been a chance for me to help our customers save money and live better.

You can find Found products at select Walmart locations, Walmart.com and coming soon to Jet.com.

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Sustainability

One Company is Helping Keep Walmart and Our Communities in the ‘Green’

Glenn H. Garrett set a standard for protecting community waterways long before “going green” became a common refrain.

In 1996, after witnessing the damage left behind by hurricanes earlier that year, the disabled Marine Corps veteran launched his own business, Retention Pond Services, in his hometown of Wilmington, N.C.

The storms had destroyed the basins that hold stormwater and they were overflowing. Glenn decided to do something about it. Luckily, four years in the Marine Corps – from 1980 to 1984 – prepared him for the hard work ahead.

“It’s not glamorous, not high tech. It’s done with good, old-fashioned manpower,” he said of his business.

Glenn developed a relationship with Walmart in 2002 when a store in Wilmington had a runoff issue in the parking lot. Walmart’s construction division called the state’s stormwater regulators and asked for a recommendation on whom to hire for help. Retention Pond Services was their answer.

When the same issue happened again, this time at another store, Walmart decided to expand the maintenance procedures developed with Glenn’s company. From there, it went nationwide.

Retention Pond Services now repairs, maintains and services stormwater systems for 1,200 Walmart stores and Sam’s Clubs across the U.S. The goal is to help Walmart meet rules and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency and reduce the risk of water pollution.

“I remember my first meeting with Walmart [representatives], and they started talking about being ‘green’. I had never heard anyone talk about green – being environmentally conscious,” he said, adding that the retailer encourages suppliers to be responsible by leading by example.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but Glenn and his company would play a major role in bringing that to fruition. He said Walmart has become a standard bearer of stormwater maintenance for big-box retailers throughout the U.S.

Retention Pond Services began with 16 employees. Fast-forward 20 years and it now employs as many as 250 workers each year, including Glenn and three other senior leaders, with clients ranging from retailers to municipalities. The number fluctuates with the seasons, but one thing remains constant – there are always military veterans like Glenn on staff. Several veterans started in junior positions and moved up through the ranks.

The business was hiring veterans before Walmart introduced its Veterans Welcome Home Commitment in 2013, but Glenn said the initiative is a great encouragement for suppliers and veterans alike. “It goes back to [Walmart] recognizing our service and appreciating what we’ve done,” he said. As a veteran himself, Glenn knows that the skills and can-do attitude learned in the military easily transfer over to civilian jobs. Glenn takes pride in his team – “I’m only as good as my worst employee” – and in protecting the environment. Much of that pride stems from his childhood in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

“My grandfather used to tell me how great fishing was – about catching massive fish. When I was growing up, there were no fish. The bay was essentially dead, killed by pollution and runoff.”

In the 1970s, Maryland got involved in a save-the-bay campaign, and the federal government’s Water Quality Act followed in 1987. Those actions helped return fishing in the bay to its former glory.

Caring for the environment comes at a cost, whether it be time or money, but the results are well worth it. As U.S. businesses continue to grow, Glenn and his team are ready to step in and protect our communities.

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Business

Walmart's Secret Advantage to Serving You This Holiday Season

The holiday season is a busy time of year at Walmart.

From October through December, hundreds of millions of Americans will visit more than 5,000 Walmart locations to shop for gifts, grab last-minute items for holiday meals and take advantage of special deals that come but once a year.

Now, more than ever, Walmart and its associates will be ready for them.

Based on the success of a similar effort in 2016, the company announced it will be offering extra hours available this time of year to our current associates, rather than hiring thousands of seasonal workers.

“Our associates make the holidays come to life in our stores, and we are thankful for everything they do,” said Judith McKenna, Chief Operating Officer. “As we head into our busiest time of the year, we know associates are ready to deliver for our customers and help give them a memorable and affordable Christmas.”

These extra hours will help staff traditional roles like cashier and stocker, as well as newly created, technology-empowered positions in Walmart’s growing online pickup department.

Here are three big reasons why the company is investing in its people for Holiday 2017:

  1. The way customers shop is rapidly changing. Walmart expects new services like Online Grocery Pickup to take off with the holiday cooking crowd, making the company’s specially trained personal shoppers an even more indispensable part of the team.
  2. The company’s Holiday Helpers program was a huge success last year, and in 2017 Walmart is increasing the number of Helpers across its fleet of stores. These associates are dedicated to helping customers get through stores faster by finding the shortest checkout line and opening registers as needed. They’ll even run to grab items customers may have forgotten, so they don’t lose their place.
  3. Walmart has increased its focus on service through new training, tools and technology. Thousands of associates have completed the company’s Pathways and Academy programs, which prepares them to more effectively serve customers during this busy season.

“The holidays are a special time of year for our customers and associates,” McKenna said. “This is what working in retail is all about, and we know our people have the passion to do even more this year.”

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Business

One Year Ago, We Welcomed Jet … and the Winners are Our Customers

When the Jet.com deal closed one year ago, many people asked, “Why Jet.com?”

At the time, we’d strengthened our e-commerce capabilities and were looking for the right partner to accelerate our efforts. So while it was a logical question to ask, the answer was really quite simple: Jet was the right partner at the right time. Both Walmart and Jet have a deep commitment to serving customers, and saving them money and time. By coming together, we could do all these things, better.

That’s exactly what we’re doing. In August, we partnered with Google for voice shopping. Earlier in the year, we launched Easy Reorder, a feature in our mobile app that helps customers easily access a list of items they purchase most frequently. We also launched free two-day shipping on millions of items – without a membership fee. And we’ve steadily expanded our merchandise assortment. This time last year, we had just reached 15 million items available on Walmart.com and today that number is 67 million items and rising.

We’ve welcomed other innovative online retailers to the Walmart family, including Bonobos, Hayneedle, Modcloth, Moosejaw and Shoes.com. Each of these acquisitions has helped strengthen our expertise in key product categories, provide an expanded assortment and a way to reach new customers. We’re able to provide these new companies the benefit of Walmart’s scale to lower their operating costs, which allows each to invest in the customer experience and grow the business.

We’re also seeing the power of our stores and e-commerce coming together to serve customers. We’re removing friction from our shopping experience – focused on making it fast, easy and fun for customers. Walmart customers now receive a discount for store pickup rather than home delivery, which we can offer by using our vast supply chain and store network to create efficiencies. With stores located within 10 miles of nearly 90 percent of the U.S. population, it’s convenient for many of our customers, and saves them money.

In addition to 1,000 grocery pickup locations in the U.S., we’re testing associate delivery of Walmart.com orders in a few stores. By the end of the year, we’ll have approximately 100 automated pickup towers in stores across the country, where customers can pick up their orders within a matter of minutes. And we’re excited about the growth we’re seeing across our e-commerce portfolio. One important metric, Gross Merchandise Value, grew 69 percent in the first quarter this year, and was just as robust the next quarter at 67 percent. That’s proof customers are responding.

Marc Lore, who founded Jet, and now leads our U.S. e-commerce efforts, has proven to be the digital embodiment of Walmart. He has a fanatical focus on serving customers and creating the next generation of everyday low prices. It’s energizing how he and Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart U.S., and their teams continue to partner closely to delight customers in new ways across our apps, sites and stores.

I’m excited about how far we’ve come together, and even more excited about what’s ahead. Here’s to another great year of finding more ways to save our customers time and money, and delivering an easy and enjoyable shopping experience.

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