October 2010: Walmart announced a new global commitment to sustainable agriculture. During the last two years, CI provided substantial input into the process leading to this important decision. Among other provisions, Walmart set a global goal for sourcing 100% certified sustainable palm oil for private brand products, along with new commitments to expand sustainable seafood procurement and to ensure that all beef originating from Brazil meets conservation guidelines.
When the world’s largest retailer chose to make environmental leadership a higher priority, Conservation International welcomed the opportunity to work closely with Walmart® on a comprehensive set of initiatives that may eventually change the way the world does business. By incorporating conservation practices into their own operations as well as their merchandise supply chains Walmart has initiated a new standard of corporate responsibility and taken a leadership position on important environmental programs.
Walmart’s commitment to environmental responsibility had its beginnings in a conversation between Walmart Chairman Rob Walton and CI founder and CEO Peter Seligmann. The discussion took place while the two were in Costa Rica to explore the incredible marine biodiversity and see how the Costa Rican government is showing leadership in protecting that country’s natural resources. It was the start of a close, effective partnership between Wal-Mart and CI that is gaining the attention of consumers and the business world alike.
In 2005, Lee Scott developed three aspirational goals for Walmart:
- To be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy.
- To create zero waste.
- To sell products that sustain our resources and environment.
“As one of the largest companies in the world, with an expanding global presence, environmental problems are OUR problems. The supply of natural products (fish, food, water) can only be sustained if the ecosystems that provide them are sustained and protected. There are not two worlds out there, a Walmart world and some other world.” - Lee Scott, Walmart Chief Executive
Leaving a Smaller Footprint
As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is concerned about their overall impact on the planet. In the fall of 2004, CI played a critical role in helping Walmart assess its environmental footprint, assisting the company to develop a sustainability strategy, and identifying high impact actions to achieve environmental solutions.
ACT: Take our short quiz to measure your own environmental footprint
Since then, CI, in partnership with other conservation organizations, has been working with Walmart on achieving environmental improvements in the company’s merchandise supply chains, such as agricultural products, seafood, and jewelry. CI has also worked with Walmart to directly support conservation in key international areas, such as Brazil.
A Groundbreaking Approach to Responsible Jewelry
Walmart partnered with CI to create its first completely traceable jewelry line. Launched in July of 2008, the Love, Earth® jewelry collection marks a major shift in how jewelry is produced.
DOWNLOAD: Read Walmart's Love, Earth Project FAQ
Walmart worked in collaboration with CI to develop a set of environmental and social practices for sourcing the entire line of jewelry and then went out and found producers who met those criteria. In addition, the project includes an online tracking system that for the first time enables customers to trace the stops their purchase made throughout the entire mine to store process.
The introduction of Love, Earth is an effective way to assure Walmart and Sam’s Club customers that their sparkling new purchase has been mined, polished, manufactured and delivered to the store while adhering to the company’s strict environmental criteria.
SEE ALSO: Partnerships for Responsible Mining and Responsible Jewelry Shines Brighter
A Commitment that Reaches to the Forests of Brazil
In a trailblazing initiative, Walmart’s Brazilian operations have partnered with CI to provide funding for a biodiversity conservation project in Brazil’s Amapá National Forest. This $1.5 million, five-year partnership seeks to transform the 414,000 hectares (over 1 million acres) of forest into a model of tropical forestry management and sustainable use of Amazon resources.
The project will focus on three areas: the improvement of forest management; the preparation and implementation of a comprehensive Management Plan; and the elimination of non-sustainable activities through substitution of more environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Among other benefits, the program will eventually prevent the release of 458 million tons of carbon, protect 183 million trees, and provide employment, education, and business opportunities to thousands of local people.
Treading Lightly on the Oceans
Walmart’s 2006 commitment to hold its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish suppliers to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards was an effort that CI was eager to support. Walmart and CI collaborated with suppliers, as well as other partner groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, to address the improvements needed to rebuild depleted fisheries. The initiative stresses the importance of looking at fisheries management as part of a larger strategy to protect entire marine ecosystems.
READ MORE: How can companies green their supply chains?
CI was also proud to work with Walmart to ensure the farmed shrimp they purchased was certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA). We provided input on the environmental aspects of the GAA standards, and Wal-Mart encouraged the GAA to adopt many of our recommendations, which strengthened the environmental sections of the standards. These criteria were especially important in regard to the protection of coastal wetlands.
A Leadership Role
Walmart’s interest in sound environmental practices isn’t limited to their own businesses. They’re also a member of CI’s Business and Sustainability Council, a community of companies committed to leveraging their business experience and resources to protect nature for the benefit of humanity. Walmart Asia is also a member of the Asia-Pacific Business & Sustainability Council, for business leaders committed to implementing and promoting social, economic and environmental sustainability in the Asia-Pacific region.
By initiating and executing these impressive and important sustainability and conservation programs and policies, Walmart is making important strides in corporate environmental responsibility.
Want to trace a piece of Love, Earth jewelry from mine to market?
Go to http://www.loveearthinfo.com/, find the “Trace it from Mine to Market” box and enter: SMPM88.