Walmart Sustainable Product Expo Gathers Top CEOs to Renew Sustainability Commitments

Our first-ever Sustainable Product Expo begins today, and it’s a great opportunity for Walmart showcase some of the work we’re doing in product sustainability. What’s even more exciting is that it’s a chance for Walmart to collaborate with some of the largest companies in the world to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in recycling and sustainable agriculture.

Eight of the largest food companies announced pledges to help ensure that tomorrow’s food supply is affordable and sustainable for the nine billion people projected to inhabit the planet by 2050. The commitments aim to drive more collaboration and efficiency across the current food system.

Additionally, companies joined with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation in announcing plans to launch a groundbreaking recycling initiative called the Closed Loop Fund, with the goal of making recycling available to all Americans.

And these commitments are coming from the top; the CEOs from these companies and organizations — including EDF, Procter& Gamble, PepsiCo, and Campbell Soup Company — are in attendance because they truly believe in the work that Walmart has done, and want to be a big part of it in the future.

Here’s what they had to say:

Environmental Defense Fund
"It is good news that so many prominent CEO's have stepped up and made commitments to reduce GHG's and make their supply chains more sustainable, and EDF looks forward to seeing real progress in the days ahead -- because follow-through is what matters most. We are very proud of our partnership with Walmart, which led to the aggressive 20MMT goal, and we'll be even prouder on the day the company announces it has reached that goal. We know our colleagues at Walmart feel the same way. We are results-oriented organizations -- and strong results begin with the commitments that were made today." – Fred Krupp, president

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.
“This partnership highlights the powerful potential of private capital to encourage more efficient use of our resources while spurring local job creation and community engagement. We are excited to be working with leading companies who are committed to developing market-based solutions that can address critical societal and environmental issues in innovative ways.” - John Weinberg, vice chairman and co-head of the Investment Banking Division

Campbell Soup Company
“At Campbell, we seek to make a positive, sustainable impact in the world through our primary purpose – real food that matters for life’s moments. Campbell has a heritage of environmental stewardship that is deeply rooted in our belief that we have a responsibility to nourish the health of our communities and conserve the Earth’s natural resources for future generations. We look forward to working with Walmart, our industry peers and suppliers in optimizing sustainable agriculture and creating efficiencies that strengthen local economies, provide access to affordable and healthy food and benefit the planet.” - Denise Morrison, president and CEO

Kellogg Company
“Because rice is one of our largest ingredient purchases – used for Rice Krispies and Special K worldwide – it’s appropriate that our new partnership with Walmart focuses on helping smallholder rice growers improve their practices and livelihoods, while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.” – John Bryant, president and CEO 

General Mills
“For the global food system, the challenge is clear: How do we produce more food for the world’s growing population and conserve and protect the natural resources and communities upon which our business depends? In response to this challenge, General Mills announced in 2013 our commitment to sustainably source 100 percent of our 10 priority ingredients by 2020 – representing more than 50 percent of our annual raw material purchases. Today’s joint commitment with Walmart builds on these efforts to advance sustainable agriculture and create long-term value for society, the environment, and business.” – Ken Powell, chairman and CEO

“Agriculture is at the center of some of the world’s most pressing challenges from meeting rising global demands to conserving precious natural resources like soil and water,” said Hugh Grant, Chairman and CEO of Monsanto Company. “But given the right tools, farmers have the opportunity to be at the forefront of solutions to grow even more safe, affordable, nutritious and sustainable food for all of us around the world. That’s why the people of Monsanto are proud to partner with our customers to continue to innovate and improve nutrient use efficiency on 1 million acres of US cropland in support of this effort. Farmers are good stewards of the land today and with continued investments in innovation, can accomplish even more in the future.” - Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO

Coca-Cola North America
“Because Coca-Cola views packaging as a valuable resource, we are developing initiatives to recover and reuse our packaging. Investing in innovative programs like Walmart’s Closed Loop Fund provides more communities with access to recycling infrastructure, while decreasing the materials deposited in landfills.” – Sandy Douglas, president

“We’re pleased that, together with Walmart, we’ll be expanding PepsiCo’s Sustainable Farming Initiative (SFI) to cover 500,000 acres under sustainable management practices in North America.  The SFI, which was developed collaboratively with stakeholders, establishes a clear and universal standard for defining, implementing and quantifying sustainable agriculture.  Integral to this partnership is joint action to develop and encourage adoption of low-carbon fertilizers, a key element of sustainable farming practices. We are also honored to join Walmart and industry partners in creating The Closed Loop Fund, an innovative funding mechanism to support and scale initiatives to increase recycling rates across the United States.” - Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO

Procter & Gamble
 “The “Closed Loop Fund” is an innovative step to enable local municipalities to invest in ways to increase local recycling to give more consumers consistent and reliable ways to reduce waste by recycling more of their everyday products.  That will, in turn, enable a larger supply of usable, recyclable content, which will enable manufactures to give consumers what they want - more packaging with recycled materials.  This is good for consumers, and good for the environment.” - A.G. Lafley, chairman of the board, president, and CEO

Johnson & Johnson Consumer Family of Companies
“Babies hold a special place in our hearts at Johnson & Johnson. Our Babies Will Inherit Our Planet® and that’s why we’ve always been committed to caring for our natural resources. We launched our Care to Recycle® campaign to raise awareness of recycling, particularly in the bathroom where most of our products are used. We are thrilled to be a founding member of the Closed Loop Fund which will help bring recycling to more American households.” - Roberto Marques, company group chairman, North America

Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. 
“Our target to make 100 percent of our K-Cup® packs for Keurig® brewing systems recyclable by 2020 is multi-faceted.  Part of accomplishing this target requires changes to the recycling infrastructure that Keurig Green Mountain can’t address alone.  This collective approach brings to life the power of partnerships, which is one of our core company values.  We share the commitment of our peers to explore solutions together in the quest to use our products and our business to impact the world in a positive way.” – Brian Kelley, president and CEO 

SC Johnson
“We’re honored to join Walmart and others in the pursuit of real progress in waste reduction.”  – Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO

“At Unilever we’ve put sustainable living at the heart of our business model – through our brands, innovation, sourcing and operations.  While we are making progress, the environmental, social, and economic issues we face as a society are far too complex for any individual, company, or government to tackle alone. The Closed Loop Fund is a great example of how we can drive transformational change through partnership. We’re excited to join forces as an industry to address the challenge of increasing recycling rates.” - Kees Kruythoff, president, North America 

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How Cocoa and Honeybees Are Helping Latin American Farmers Thrive

A simple honeybee: It provides you with deliciously sweet honey for your tea. It helps pollinate the crops of fruits and vegetables that end up on your family’s dinner plate – even the coffee beans for your morning drink. That same honeybee can also help small family farmers in places like the dense forests of Mexico thrive.

Many Latin American agricultural businesses don’t survive long term. But it isn’t because they’re fighting against Mother Nature or bad crops or not enough hard-working laborers. It usually boils down to a lack of financial training and little access to credit.

Now, here’s where that bee and your morning coffee come back into the picture.

Root Capital, with support from the Walmart Foundation, is helping provide credit and training to 24 agricultural businesses throughout Mexico. These enterprises play a critical role in linking small farmers to faraway global markets, resulting in more stable incomes. Over the next two years, we will work with honey, cocoa and coffee cooperatives that collectively reach 7,500 small farmers.

Since the project launched in December 2017, it has provided tailored training in financial management and accounting systems to eight Mexican honey and coffee cooperatives. We’ve also supported four of these businesses – that previously had no access to credit from commercial banks – with $1.1 million in new financing. To date, this credit and training has strengthened the livelihoods of more than 2,000 small farmers.

This project also gives us the opportunity to help farmers unlock the hidden potential of honey and cocoa. Despite growing U.S. demand for honey, most honey producers are extremely poor. And they’ve usually turned to beekeeping to supplement income from their primary activity – coffee farming. But honey offers economic opportunities to those able to invest in it: It doesn’t require much land, can be pursued in many different climates and tends to generate relatively high earnings per kilo. Plus, the benefits of beekeeping go beyond livelihoods. Healthy hives sustain diverse ecosystems by pollinating plants, including many of the crops we depend on for food.

Cocoa holds similar promise. Latin America produces 48% of the world’s sustainable cocoa and 85% of its certified organic cocoa. Demand for fine chocolate means there’s significant room for growth. Like honey, cocoa provides an alternative crop for small-scale coffee farmers threatened by climate change and food insecurity.

Thanks to support from the Walmart Foundation, Root Capital will build the capacity of early-stage honey, cocoa and coffee businesses to access stable financing. And that stability will, in turn, empower farming families in Mexico to invest in nutritious food and education for their children, better farm productivity and so much more.

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Get Ready With Kyle as He Breaks Down Walmart’s GRR

Meet Kyle. Last year, this associate starred in a video where he took on quite the challenge: summing up Walmart’s Global Responsibility Report in the time it took for him to walk to his desk in the morning.

In 2018, he accepted the task once again – this time giving us the download while he gets ready for work.

Why does this matter? Well, Walmart is a big company, so the GRR is a big report. It’s a lot of information to digest, but what that ultimately translates to is the big difference that can be made in the world: investing in the communities we serve, helping the environment and taking care of our associates and our neighbors.

The GRR details all sorts of ways Walmart is working to build a better society and a stronger company. Those efforts range from reducing chemicals in our consumable products, continuing our American-made products initiative that could create as many as 1 million new U.S. jobs, and helping associates at all job levels acquire the skills they need to advance.

You can read the report summary here, but if you’re short on time, check out Kyle’s take in the video below.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Answering the Open Call: Entrepreneurs Bring It at Walmart’s Annual Event

It was high-stakes show-and-tell yesterday at Walmart’s annual U.S. Manufacturing Open Call event.

Entrepreneurs representing more than 450 businesses roamed the halls of our Home Office in Bentonville, Arkansas, awaiting their turn to pitch everything from salsa to sportswear in front of Walmart buyers. Weaving my way through the crowd, I saw hundreds of original and inventive items and had the privilege of meeting some of the people and hearing some of the stories behind them.

A few of those people walked away with deals, a few heard maybes and others received feedback that will prepare them to try again. Here are five of my favorites.

1. Flying High. Megan Hardwick had a roller-coaster ride of a day. The business owner and mom had to pitch her Wings Cosmetics eyeliner stamps twice: once in a small room in front of a buyer, then in an auditorium filled with other hopefuls and Walmart associates. Our cosmetics buyer was sold on Megan’s invention – flexible plastic stamps that apply liquid or gel eyeliner in sharp, matching wing shapes in seconds.

Flying high after getting a deal, she was selected for a live pitch session called “Bring It,” where businesses vied for crowdsourcing to identify which products would get placement in Walmart stores. Megan’s Wings went up against Mighty Good Pizza Saver – a microwavable plastic container that keeps leftover pizza fresh – and the competition was intense, with the Pizza Saver taking the lead by one point seconds before the polls closed. Megan wasn’t out of the game though. Her Wings pulled through and the contest ended with a tie.

2. Sparking Interest. Warren Brown, a lawyer-turned-baker from the Washington, D.C., area, attended his first Open Call in 2017 and ultimately landed a deal for Don’t Forget Cake: a single-serve layer cake with frosting in a jar. This year, he presented a healthier snacking option called Spark Bites. Warren said these whole-grain snacks are gluten- and allergen-free, high in fiber, low in cane sugar and come in five different flavors. His Spark Bites were referred to another buyer in a category that better fits the product. As for Don’t Forget Cake, two flavors launched in March and will soon be available in 1,000 Walmart stores.

3. Ugly Dates Deserve Love. This story begins all the way in Israel. When David Czinn and his friend and business partner, Brian Finkel, were studying abroad in the Middle East, they both fell in love with the region’s alternative to honey: D’vash date nectar. The sweetener has been a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years, David said, and the duo wanted to bring it to the States – but they wanted to cut the sugar and make it environmentally friendly. Thus D’vash Organics was born. Their dates come from Coachella Valley farms in California. “We buy the ugly ones that wouldn’t otherwise be sold,” David said. The nectar is vegan, has 25% less sugar than honey and can add flavor to tea and coffee, marinades, salad dressing and much more. David, a second-time Open Call participant, said he got positive feedback and was excited for the future of this ancient delight as he prepared for more meetings later in the day.

4. Party to Go. With the summer heat just getting started, ready-to-go cocktails sound like a great idea for parties and relaxing evenings outside with friends. YUMIX has quenched the need with three flavors – Orange Mango, Margarita and Sea Breeze. Everything needed is in one bottle: Simply twist off the bottom chamber that holds the alcohol, pour into the bottle and mix. Alex Garner, founder and CEO, started the day off right when he walked out of the pitch meeting with a deal for these adult beverages.

5. The Heart of the Deal. Not everyone was at Open Call with products in tow. Businessman Ray Doustdar was back for his second year with advice and a listening ear. In 2017, Ray pitched his liquid multivitamins, Buiced – a play on “boost your veggie juice” – and didn’t immediately get a deal because the product was too big for Walmart’s shelves. Ray took the buyer’s feedback home, adjusted the size of the packaging, approached the buyer again and got his “yes.” Two flavors of Buiced, citrus and fruit punch, are now available in 3,000 stores, and the experience has been life-changing for Ray. “I knew I wanted to come back as a success story and help other people prepare for their meetings,” Ray said. “This experience has made me be better at my business,” he said, and being able to pay it forward as a mentor is important to him.

Ray said it best: “The stories coming out of Open Call are proof that the American dream is alive and well.”

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U.S. Manufacturing

Diary of a Dairy Farm: Meet the Dirksens, Who Supply Milk to Walmart

Growing up in rural Ohio, Tina Dirksen doesn’t remember picking up many things at the store. Aside from toothpaste, her family’s farm produced everything else that their 14-person household needed.

Modern life is a bit different, she explained, but it’s clear that she means that only with regard to her family’s shopping habits. A lot of her life actually remains the same: She’s still in the farming business, with multiple operations that produce pork, grain, corn and dairy. And she’s still a part of a big family, today the mother of eight children who all love animals and the land.

“I ask them what they want to do in the future and each one of them tells me they want to farm,” she said. “They know no other life. They truly enjoy it.”

While the Dirksens somehow find time to do their own gardening, canning and butchering some of their own meat, Tina says they make two trips to their local Walmart per week. So when the opportunity arose for them to sell milk to Walmart’s new dairy plant in nearby Fort Wayne, they were excited. They would be shipping their milk just a short distance, and by working directly with a retailer, they could oversee more details themselves.

“It totally made sense to me,” she said. “Farming is changing, and the dairy industry as a whole needs more outlets for their milk. This new plant offers that.”

Local farmers like the Dirksen family are critical to Walmart’s entry in to milk processing. Nearly 30 farms across Indiana and Michigan have signed up to provide milk to the 250,000-square-foot state-of-the-art plant, which began construction in 2016 on the heels of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture’s strategy to increase the volume of dairy processing locally. In opening this facility, Walmart joins a majority of other grocery retailers who run their own milk processing operations.

For the Dirksens, doing business in dairy is an investment for the future. Their 8,000-hog pork farm provides the majority of their income, while any profits the dairy farm produces are put back into improving it alone. Tina keeps up with industry innovations and implements those that are beneficial for the cows, the business and the environment.

“Sustainability is accountability,” she said. “If you don’t make a farm that is sustainable, it won’t be very profitable to you. It’s not something that we take lightly.”

The Dirksens care equally about their relationships with the people and the animals who work for them. While Tina’s responsibilities on the farm are mostly administrative, she oversees veterinary care for the cows and has been known to help out her employees by even babysitting their kids once in a while. Her family even spends time with cows on their off hours – they’ve had a pet, a Jersey cow they named Good Golly Molly, for 7 years.

“What I love most about farming is that it provides us the opportunity to do what’s best for our family,” she said. “To us, working with Walmart is an exciting adventure.”

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