What would happen if the world’s largest retailer made sustainability a business imperative?
That’s the question Conservation International posed to Walmart in 2004, kicking off our work together and leading to the development of Walmart’s three aspirational sustainability goals:
- to be supplied by 100% renewable energy;
- to create zero waste;
- and to sell products that sustain our resources and the environment.
It also launched a more than decade-long partnership between Walmart and Conservation International that has included efforts to bring more sustainable products to consumers. This includes reducing deforestation associated with its global palm oil footprint and implementing innovative sourcing strategies for coffee, jewelry and seafood. Walmart is a member of Conservation International’s Catapult Collaborative, a community of companies committed to advancing innovation in corporate sustainability, for healthy ecosystems and human well-being.
Conservation International is helping Walmart to source more products sustainably and support supply chains that are more resilient to climate change and social and environmental impacts. In 2015, we analyzed Walmart’s sustainable sourcing commitments for palm oil, beef and soy — three commodities that are impacting forests in Brazil and Indonesia. The analysis helped Walmart to understand the impacts its sourcing policies have on the industry, in their supply chain and at origin.
Conservation International and Walmart are now working to examine ways to drive sustainability in Walmart’s supply chain, including addressing deforestation, improving producer livelihoods, and upholding the rights of communities through better sourcing and innovative collaborations that inspire transformation of the entire palm oil, beef and soy sectors.
Opportunity for impact
Walmart’s 11,000 stores in 27 countries are supplied by a global pool of more than 100,000 businesses.
Areas of work
Walmart’s global scale and influence has the capacity to impact beyond its own supply chain in adopting more sustainable sourcing practices to suppliers, competitors and entire sectors. Walmart has aggressively implemented voluntary sustainable sourcing initiatives critical to improving the resilience of supply chains, just one way of addressing the complex issue of agriculture-driven deforestation. However, the complexity of agriculture-driven deforestation requires collaboration across sectors, support from policymakers, and solutions at the landscape level to alter our current models/systems of production. Walmart can play a unique role, combining purchasing power and industry influence to improve demand for sustainably sourced products, while collaborating and investing at a landscape level to promote improved production systems and market incentives.
Walmart moves to certified sustainable private-brand coffee in its U.S. stores
The coffee we drink depends on the health, prosperity and well-being of more than 10 million smallholder producers and 10 million hectares of coffee farms, and the continued ability of nature to sustain them. Rising temperatures, drought and changing weather patterns are causing major coffee-producing areas of the world to become less suitable for production — affecting both the long-term supply of coffee and the millions of people who rely on the coffee industry for their livelihoods. In 2017, Conservation International worked with Walmart on the strategy to improve the sustainability of their coffee supply chain, resulting in the company’s commitment to source more sustainable private-brand coffee for U.S. Walmart stores by 2020. Walmart was the first North American grocery retailer to join Conservation International's Sustainable Coffee Challenge and was able to meet their sourcing commitment one year ahead of schedule. The Walmart Foundation is also working on advancing the sustainability of global coffee, funding a program with Conservation International in 2019 to map, monitor and understand the role of coffee in forest conservation in Colombia and Indonesia, including how climate change might shift coffee production into new landscapes, accelerating deforestation. By equipping decisionmakers with clearer information about coffee’s impacts on forests, Conservation International hopes to stimulate further commitments to zero deforestation coffee production and sourcing.
Transitioning Walmart products to 100% sustainable palm oil
Palm oil is found in about half of all consumer products. In 2010, Walmart committed to sourcing 100% certified sustainable palm oil for all its private-brand products by 2015. Since then, Conservation International has worked with Walmart to help them implement this commitment, by knowing which products contain the ingredient and producing materials to help educate Walmart’s thousands of suppliers on how to source sustainable palm oil. Through this work, we witnessed the scope of Walmart’s influence over its supply chain, with 85% of the company’s private-label palm oil suppliers noting Walmart influenced them to implement more sustainable sourcing practices. In 2014, 54% of Walmart’s palm oil was certified sustainable through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), and at the end of 2015, Walmart achieved 100% certified sustainable palm oil in all global private-brand products.
Tropical forestry management and sustainable use of Amazon resources
In 2009, Walmart’s Brazilian operations partnered with Conservation International to fund a biodiversity conservation project in Brazil’s Amapá National Forest. The project protected 414,000 hectares (over 1 million acres) and provided employment, education and business opportunities to thousands of local people. The project created a sustainable means of income for communities through wild-harvested crops like acai berries, which are purchased by Walmart.
Tracing jewelry from its source
In 2008, Conservation International partnered with Walmart to create the company’s first completely traceable, environmentally responsible jewelry line — Love, Earth®. Walmart worked with us to develop environmental and social practices for sourcing the jewelry line and to help identify producers who met those strict criteria. The project also includes an online tracking system that for the first time enables customers to trace each stop their purchase all the way from the mine to their local Walmart.
Sustaining fisheries and a healthy ocean
Conservation International supported Walmart in its 2006 commitment to hold its wild-caught fresh and frozen fish suppliers to Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standards. Together Conservation International and Walmart worked with Walmart’s suppliers, as well as other partner groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, to support more sustainable fisheries. We also worked with Walmart to develop a program to purchase farmed shrimp certified by the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), providing input on the environmental aspects of GAA standards to strengthen the protection of coastal wetlands. Both initiatives stress the importance of fisheries and resource management as part of a larger strategy that ensures healthy and productive marine ecosystems.