If you've been following Walmart's recent Twitter posts, you'll see a marked emphasis on sustainability.
That's because the company recently released its "2011 Global Responsibility Report," renamed this year from the Sustainability Report to reflect "the new social and environmental dimensions we have added to our efforts, as well as new data and metrics to track and measure our progress," according to Michael Duke, president and CEO.
Five years ago, Walmart launched its sustainability efforts with three broad goals: 1) to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy, 2) to create zero waste and 3) to sell products that sustain people and the environment. The latest report suggests that Walmart has done an admirable job working towards all three goals, but the company is selective in noting its specific accomplishments.
The current report highlights facts such as these:
• There was an "absolute 10.61% reduction" in greenhouse gas emissions from Walmart stores globally from 2005 through 2009 (the most current data).
• Plastic bag waste was reduced by 47.95 million pound, or about 3.5 billion bags, globally.
• 73% of the total pounds of wild fish and farmed seafood sold at Walmart U.S.and Sam;s Club was certified sustainable.
• To date, 119 factories in China have demonstrated greater than 20% improved efficiency compared to the 2007 baseline.
• The company realized a 65% improvement over the 2005 baseline in the U.S. and a 33.5 percent improvement over the 2006 baseline in Japan in fleet efficiency.
Duke says Walmart "has also taken on big issues facing society," citing healthier foods as one example. He says Walmart supported Michelle Obama's initiative to reduce childhood obesity by pledging to reduce sodium by 25% and added sugars by 10% and remove all remaining industrially produced trans fats in food products offered in the chain's U.S. stores by 2015. Walmart also pledged to save customers $1 billion per year on fresh fruits and vegetables.
Some of what Walmart hasn't accomplished, according to Heather Clancy of the SmartPlanet blog, includes:
• It hasn't eliminated PVC from its private brand packaging, a goal it was supposed to achieve by 2007
• Not every air conditioner sold in its U.S. stores is Energy-Star rated
• The company didn't achieve its goal of tracing all diamonds, gold and silver in jewelry sold by Walmart in the U.S. to validate ethical and responsible mining practices.
Nevertheless, one thing that can be said about Walmart: In this latest report, at least, the world's largest retailer is openly sharing information about the impact of its operations on the world — something not every company readily does.