Sustainability

Feeding the World Demands Change from Farm to Fork

Last weekend, in the wake of one of the longest, coldest winters in recent memory, my family and I walked in the spring sunshine, past stands of oaks and blossoming redbuds, along the winding trails of Crystal Bridges.  We love our new Ozarks home, and have been reveling in the signs of spring all around us. We are excited to celebrate Earth Day in “the Natural State” of Arkansas.

Here at Walmart, we’ve been marking Earth Day with the release of our Global Responsibility Report and the renewal of our commitment to sustainability. While we are proud of our progress in energy, waste, and product chains, we have a long way to go.  

Nowhere is this more the case than in the food chain.  In the next 30 years, the world population will approach 9 billion, putting further stress on already-strained natural capital.  As the world’s largest grocer, we are concerned with one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to help provide people on every continent with food that is safe, affordable, and sustainable for people and planet.


No one can solve this alone.  Progress will require collaborative problem solving among people all along the food chain – from farmers and fishers to transporters, development agencies, manufacturers, scientists, activists, regulators, retailers and consumers.  It’s why, for example, Walmart recently joined USAID’s groundbreaking Global Development Lab, along with a number of other organizations, to develop innovative solutions to development challenges such as this.

Will you join Walmart and so many others in creating a more sustainable food chain? Here are just a few of the ways we are trying to make a difference, from field (and ocean) to fork:

Resilient sourcing: We’re working with farmers to adopt innovative agriculture practices that preserve the environment and are fair to the people who use them. For example, we are working with partners on technologies to reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, and to conserve water; and we recently joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Fair Food Program – an initiative to improve farmworkers’ working conditions and wages.

Waste reduction: We’re addressing food waste all along the chain - for example, by gleaning fallen produce from the ground, and making use of an entire crop.  We cull fresh food from our stores before it goes bad, so that instead of becoming waste sent to landfill, it gets sent to hunger relief organizations and then on to people who need it most.  

Food safety: Walmart was the first U.S. grocer to require suppliers of food products such as produce, meat, fish, poultry and ready-to-eat foods to have their factories certified against one of the internationally recognized Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards. We are bringing our food safety approaches to our operations around the world, including not only North America, but in many countries across Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Food security and access: Improving access to affordable food is a core part of our business strategy. It’s why we’re saving customers more than $1 billion each year on fresh produce and opening stores in food deserts. Earlier this month, we announced the rollout of affordable organic foods under the Wild Oats label.  And for years, we’ve worked with food banks to provide more links from our stores and suppliers, as well as the infrastructure to support a permanent cold chain – all in an effort to route millions of pounds of food to communities that need it most.

Making healthy easy: Of course, it’s not just about feeding the world – it’s about feeding families well. So we’re taking the homework out of healthy shopping, working with suppliers to reduce sugars and sodium and remove trans fats in everyday foods, while making the more nutritious choices easier to spot with our Great For You icon in stores. We’re providing tips and tools for how to turn these foods into simple, healthy and delicious meals, and working with valuable partners to educate families on cooking skills and nutrition.

We are committed to using our strengths – our market access, investment dollars, technological expertise and scale – to help others.  Please join us; bring your unique strengths to the table, and work with us, to set the table for everyone. 

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Community

In the Aftermath of a Disaster, Food Banks Help Communities Heal

It’s hard to prepare yourself to visit a community that’s been affected by disaster.

The week after Hurricane Harvey hit, I visited the Houston area to help Feeding America member organization, Houston Food Bank, with relief efforts. Despite learning as much as possible about the hurricane’s impact before I left, I was still shocked by what I saw – the good and bad alike.

Driving around the neighborhoods, I saw entire contents of people’s homes piled curbside. It had all been ruined in the flooding and needed to be discarded. I met several people who told me through tears that they’d lost everything – including Rosalba, a mother who, along with her five children, rode out the storm in a pickup truck, praying for safety as the water rose. The house she had been renting was no longer livable. With nowhere to go, Rosalba and her family had been sleeping in that same truck, parked on the front lawn of what remains of their home. Her landlord said the home would take six to nine months to renovate, so Rosalba was desperately trying to find a place for her family to live in the meantime.

I met Rosalba at a local food pantry that was distributing supplies and food to hundreds of people impacted by Harvey. She and her daughter were there to pick up ready-to-eat meals and toiletries to help them get by. They were extremely grateful for the support in this unexpected time of need.

When I visited The Houston Food Bank, it was overflowing with donations and volunteers. There were boxes upon boxes of donated supplies waiting to be delivered. I was there only five days after the food bank re-opened, and already, more than 5,000 people had been through its doors to volunteer. The community – and country – is truly banding together to help people rebuild.

Feeding America’s network of food banks reaches every county in every corner of our nation—making us uniquely prepared to respond in the event of a disaster. Within hours we are able to quickly deploy trucks and other solutions to help in communities where we already operate. From preparing for disasters before they hit, to responding during the disaster, to supporting families and communities through recovery, we offer food and hope for families as they seek to return to normalcy.

Food banks in Texas have provided essential supplies to people in need, including water, boxes of food and personal hygiene and cleaning items. They’ve also provided support to transitional shelters. Food banks farther away have helped, too, by pitching in to offer product, vehicles and other assistance as needed.

For me, it was humbling to be in Houston – meeting storm survivors and volunteers and seeing firsthand how much of a difference the Feeding America network was really making in people’s lives. It reminded me why I am passionate about the work that we do.

Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have been instrumental in relief efforts. Their commitment of over $37 million for hurricane response over the past few months includes specific contributions to Feeding America and its member food banks to help those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. With this support, we’ll be able to help even more food and supplies get to communities in need.

Even with this outpouring of support, there’s still so much more to be done. For thousands of families like Rosalba’s, it will take time to recover. But I’m hopeful that with continued support, everyone who has been impacted will be able to get back on their feet a little sooner.

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Sustainability

Affordable v. Eco-Friendly: You Shouldn’t Have to Choose

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just walk into a store and be confident the items you purchased were produced in a way that had the least amount of impact on the planet?

While that’s not yet a reality for many consumers, Walmart is trying to get there faster.

Last April, Walmart launched Project Gigaton, a project that invites our merchandise suppliers to join us in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the products they make and the way they make them, taking 1 gigaton (yes, that’s really a word - a billion metric tons) of emissions out of the atmosphere. That’s equal to all the emissions produced from all the homes in California over three years.

Greenhouse gas emissions are compounds that trap heat in the atmosphere and make the earth warmer. When the earth is too warm, it can cause many long-term issues that affect everyday things like the way we grow certain foods and source certain resources.

Not only does Project Gigaton encourage suppliers to remove emissions, it also encourages them to explore ways to improve their products, such as making packaging more recyclable, using less energy, saving customers money and reducing waste.

Taylor Farms is a supplier that makes prepackaged salads and fresh-cut vegetables for our Marketside private brand. With their chopped salads and stir fry kits, they found a way to reduce food waste by using the whole crop, meaning that 100% of the edible veggies get chopped up and nothing is discarded in the production process.

Taylor Farms has been dedicated to the development of new harvesting methods, engineering automated harvesting machines. In comparison to harvesting by hand, the uniformity and consistency of automated harvesting leads to higher yields and shipment of 100% usable products to their processing facilities. In addition to Taylor Farms, we are excited to have a growing number of suppliers joining Project Gigaton, working on things like reducing pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow food, making factories more efficient or using renewable energy like solar or wind turbines.

Walmart also recently announced we’ll further our efforts to reduce chemicals of concern, like formaldehyde and phthalates, from consumable products sold in Walmart and Sam’s Clubs U.S. stores by 10% by 2022, becoming the first U.S. retailer to set a time-bound reduction goal. This applies to items like household cleaners, cosmetics, skincare and infant products, among others.

I’m proud that work like this puts us in the company of other organizations doing great things. Walmart was recently recognized on Fortune’s Change the World list, as one of 50 featured companies making social benefit part of their core business.

No one should have to choose between products they can afford and products that are good for the environment. As more of our suppliers join in our goal to sell products that are good for people and the planet, it will become easier for more families to buy products they know are produced as sustainably as possible.

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U.S. Manufacturing

RedHead Wine is Raising a Glass to Family Traditions

Family traditions can tell us so much about where we come from, and play a big part in who we become and what we bring to the world. I come from a family of winemakers.

My grandparents, Dominic and Michele Sergi, both emigrated from Italy at the age of 14, bringing the tradition of winemaking with them to Lowellville, Ohio. My grandfather started out by buying California grapes from railcars just outside of Youngstown, Ohio, which he used to make wine to share with his friends and family. My father, Frank Sergi, learned the craft from him. Frank and my mother, Ruth, opened a winery and bistro in Youngstown called L’uva Bella (“the beautiful grape” in Italian), and it still successfully serves the community today.

For me, I wanted to create something of my own that would bring people together the same way my family’s winery does. I spent four years at Cornell University learning enology and viticulture, the study of winemaking and grape-growing, and working with our team at L’uva Bella. With a passion for the industry and a technical expertise, I created my own wine label, RedHead Wine. I’ve been very fortunate that I got it right and consumers enjoy its unique blend.

After months of selling it at local stores and regional outlets, I learned first-hand how rewarding sharing something you’ve made yourself can be. I knew I wanted to do more of it. When I heard about Walmart’s U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put our product on more shelves and on the tables of more people – something that Walmart’s size could help me accomplish.

In June, I presented my RedHead Red Blend to their buyer and was approved to test it in all 150-plus stores in Ohio. As of today, it’s available in 30 stores throughout Ohio and we expect to expand into Michigan stores in early 2018.

As a result, we are expecting additional growth at L’uva Bella winery, with the potential to increase production by almost four times and create new jobs for us in Youngstown.

I’m so grateful this new opportunity allows me to leverage my passion for wine and share our RedHead brand products with even more people. It’s personally fulfilling and rewarding to make a product that contributes to the celebration some of life’s happiest moments and often plays a part in bringing people together.

Growing my business and extending the legacy of my family’s artisan craft is a journey that has opened many doors for me, and I truly can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Community

Now Boarding: Critical Supplies Take Flight for Recovery

Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, one of the biggest obstacles to any relief effort has been difficulty landing aircraft on the island.

Puerto Rico’s international airports were closed in anticipation of the storm, and in the immediate wake of Maria, commercial airlines were unable to gain clearance for flights to deliver supplies. Yet, the need for emergency and medical supplies for the island’s people and communities remained high. That’s why Dan Williams, Walmart’s vice president of aviation, made the choice to use private company planes to carry critical supplies to the island.

To date, Walmart aviation has made four flights to Puerto Rico, carrying a variety of supplies and enough insulin to save 3,300 lives. In the video below, Dan talks about the island’s needs as his crew prepares for the third flight.

Dan and his pilots also carried paychecks for some of Puerto Rico’s 15,000 Walmart associates, many of whom were unable to electronically access them because communication systems were down.

While these flights have helped take care of some immediate needs, there’s much more left to be done. Jimmy Fallon of “The Tonight Show” announced on Monday night a collaboration with Walmart to donate $1 million to Puerto Rico relief through Feeding America and the Puerto Rico Food Bank. Throughout October, Walmart will also donate $2 to the Puerto Rico Relief Fund for every $1 donated, up to an additional $1 million. You can give here or through the Walmart app on your mobile device.

The Tonight Show Partners with Walmart to Donate $1M to Puerto...

Jimmy announces The Tonight Show's partnership with Walmart to donate $1 million to Puerto Rico relief through Feeding America and the Puerto Rico Food Bank. And for the rest of October, Walmart will be donating an additional $2 (up to $1 Million) for every $1 that YOU donate to the Walmart Puerto Rico Relief Fund! Here’s more on how to help:

Posted by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday, October 9, 2017

*Editor’s Note: Click here to view a version of the video with Spanish-language captioning.

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