Walmart announces new sustainability initiatives

| September 20, 2013

Soon when you shop at Walmart, the chain’s slogan—“Save Money. Live Better.”—will have a little more meaning. It will mean living without toxic chemicals, living healthier, and living safer.

At Walmart’s recent Global Sustainability Milestone meeting, President and CEO Mike Duke announced a number of sustainability initiatives in a plan to use less energy, greener chemicals, fewer fertilizers, and more recycled materials.

sustainability initiatives

Walmart President and CEO Mike Duke discussing Walmart’s sustainability progress. From Walmart Corporate.

Next year, Walmart will cut down or eliminate 10 potentially toxic chemicals found in cleaning products and cosmetics from its Walmart brand products and in 2015, the company will mandate suppliers to reveal the use of those chemicals to customers online. However, Walmart will not stop carrying products that contain these ingredients. The initiative is meant to prompt suppliers to look for safe replacements. Walmart also said its sustainability index, which was created in 2009 and is used to track products’ environmental impact, has now been applied to 200 product categories and to more than 1,000 suppliers.

The announcement comes days after P&G’s decision to phase out two hazardous chemicals, phthalates and triclosan, by 2014. P&G is the world’s largest consumer products manufacturer and is behind household names like Crest, Tide, and CoverGirl. Walmart has not yet released which 10 chemicals will be eliminated.

sustainability initiatives

Walmart recycling balers can recycle 32 different materials. From Walmart Corporate.

As the United States’ largest retailer, hopefully, Walmart’s bold change will affect the entire industry and ignite a shift to “go green.” Previously, the multi-billion dollar company faced heavy environmental criticism. Earlier this year, Walmart reached a settlement with the Environmental Protection Agency, in which it agreed to pay more than $81 million for federal environmental crimes, including illegally handling and disposing of hazardous materials.

A 2011 study by Deloitte, a professional services firm, revealed that 57 percent of consumers said safety was their No. 1 concern when purchasing personal care products. Never mind relying on policies, this concern coupled with the rapidly growing sales of natural and organic products is what could force retailers and manufacturers to rethink what goes into their products and cause them to become more transparent.

sustainability initiatives

In 2007, Walmart released reusable bags with the goal of eliminating the use of 75-100 plastic bags during 1 reusable bag’s lifetime. From marandabrooke.

Walmart’s recent announcement isn’t the only “green” solution the mega stores are implementing. The company is already making efforts to cut down on plastics sent to the landfill and is working both with cities to increase plastic recycling and manufacturers to increase the use of recycled content in their packaging. Other sustainable Walmart initiatives include reducing fertilizer on U.S. farmland by requiring suppliers to develop fertilizer optimization plans, and working toward being powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

If Walmart’s commitment to sustainability sparks other large retailers to do the same, product manufacturers will be forced to rethink their environmental actions. Not only is this latest announcement a victory for consumers, but also for the advocates and organizations that have been aggressively pushing for safer corporate practices for years. It is also an invitation to push for more change.

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Category: Regulations

About the Author ()

Katelyn is an intern at SmartSign. She recently graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in professional writing and specializations in public relations and nonprofits. As a recent transplant from Mason, Michigan, she is currently staying on her cousin's couch in the East Village. Katelyn looks forward to getting to know Brooklyn and eating her way across the five boroughs.

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