Walmart and CPG companies accelerate efficiency agenda

Walmart has gathered CEOs from more than a dozen global companies to sign new commitments that accelerate innovation in sustainable agriculture and recycling. The pledges kicked off Walmart’s inaugural Sustainable Product Expo, a three-day collaboration to expand the availability of products that sustain people and the environment.

Together, the participating suppliers represent more than $100 billion in sales at Walmart.

Eight of the largest food companies announced pledges to help ensure that tomorrow’s food supply is affordable and sustainable for the 9 billion people projected to inhabit the planet by 2050. The commitments aim to drive more collaboration and efficiency across the current food system. In total, this work is expected to bring eight million acres of farmland into sustainable agriculture programs and eliminate six million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Additionally, companies joined with Walmart and the Walmart Foundation to launch a recycling initiative called the Closed Loop Fund, with the goal of making recycling available to all Americans. The fund aims to invest $100 million in recycling infrastructure projects and spur private and public funding for transforming the recycling system in the United States.

“Walmart and our suppliers recognize that collaboration is the key to bringing sustainable solutions to all of our customers,” said president and CEO Doug McMillon. “A great deal of innovative work is happening every day, but there are still too many gaps and missed opportunities. Today’s commitments are about creating real systems change from one end of the supply chain to the other — meaning how products are grown and made, how they’re transported and sold, and how we touch the lives of people along the way.”

Leaders joining McMillon and Walmart executives in Bentonville, included:

  • John Bryant, CEO and president, Kellogg Company;
  • Rob Gehring, global account leader, The Coca-Cola Company;
  • Hugh Grant, chairman and CEO, Monsanto;
  • Fred Krupp, president, Environmental Defense Fund;
  • Kees Kruythoff, president, North America for Unilever;
  • A. G. Lafley, chairman of the board, president, and CEO, Procter & Gamble;
  • Roberto Marques, company group chairman, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Family of Companies, North America;
  • Denise Morrison, president and CEO, Campbell Soup Company;
  • Indra Nooyi, chairman and CEO, PepsiCo;
  • Monique Oxender, senior director, sustainability, Keurig Green Mountain;
  • Greg Page, executive chairman of the board, Cargill;
  • Ken Powell, chairman and CEO, General Mills;
  • Carter Roberts, president and CEO, World Wildlife Fund;
  • Peter Seligmann, chairman, CEO and co-founder, Conservation International;
  • Rick Smith, president and CEO, Dairy Farmers of America;
  • John Weinberg, vice chairman and co-head of the Investment Banking Division, The Goldman Sachs Group.

The expo highlighted several initiatives to further expand access to sustainable products and create more transparency in the supply chain. Together with Procter & Gamble, Walmart announced a commitment to a 25% reduction in water per dose for all liquid laundry detergent. In the area of fertilizer management, Walmart last year set a goal of optimizing 14 million acres of farmland with the potential to reduce 7 million metric tons of GHGs. Combined with progress already made, the new pledges announced today will help advance that goal by optimizing an estimated 10 million acres and eliminating 8.5 million metric tons of GHGs.

Working with Cargill, Walmart is developing a small-scale pilot focused on improved beef supply chain visibility, including increased traceability elements resulting in more visibility from farm to fork. This is part of Walmart’s goal to source 15% of its beef supply with environmental criteria by 2023. In collaboration with Conservation International and suppliers, Walmart has converted 27% of the palm oil used in its private-brand products from conventional to sustainable palm oil.

The expo also included updates from EPA experts on sustainable chemistry and presentations by McKinsey and EDF on new tools suppliers can use to scale factory energy efficiency.

Walmart also previewed plans to create a sustainability store on walmart.com. The shopping portal, expected to launch by the end of 2014, will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a category via a special icon.

“No one should have to choose between products that are sustainable and products they can afford,” said Manuel Gomez, VP of sustainability. “We want to make sustainability easy by taking the guesswork out of values-based shopping. Accessibility and transparency really put the customer in the driver’s seat.”

This new online tool for customers and other initiatives to drive sustainability across the supply chain are based on metrics from the Sustainability Index. Since 2009, Walmart and many suppliers, stakeholders and competitors have worked with The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) to develop measurement and reporting systems for product sustainability, including the Index. The tools from TSC offer Walmart a common way to evaluate supplier performance and drive innovation. More than 700 product categories are now covered by the index.