Walmart Takes New Steps to Support Sustainable Agriculture

Man with bananas in Madagascar. Bananas are among the world's largest agricultural commodities.

What’s Walmart’s top-selling item? Out of the thousands of items for sale at any Walmart store, the item topping the list isn’t toilet paper or video games … it’s bananas.

Surprised? In addition to being a retail powerhouse, Walmart is the world’s largest grocer with one of the biggest food supply chains. This status makes the company’s recent announcement all the more impressive: ambitious new commitments to expand support for sustainable agriculture practices by 2015, including:

  • Doubling the percent of locally-grown produce sold in U.S. stores (up to 9 percent);
  • Requiring sustainably-sourced palm oil in all private label products that include palm oil as an ingredient;
  • Creating an agricultural sustainability index that will make sure Walmart buys from the greenest suppliers, and allow customers to choose which products to purchase based on how they were grown and/or shipped; and
  • Ensuring that beef sold in Walmart stores has not contributed to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon rainforest.

For 10 years, CI’s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business (CELB) has been working with corporations like Walmart to green their business practices, and provided substantial input into the process leading to this important decision. “Walmart’s ambitious and forward thinking goals will have far-reaching and positive economic and environmental consequences for farmers around the world — consumers who will have broader access to fresh produce and also to a finite planet that will need to feed approximately 9 billion people by 2050,” said Donnell Ocker Roy, the senior director of corporate relations for CELB.

In addition to other environmental consequences, the agricultural sector currently contributes about 13-16 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. When a company of Walmart’s scale decides to make a change in the agricultural practices of its vast supply chain, the impact reverberates across the planet. “Walmart’s recognition that agriculture depends on nature and the services nature provides is truly demonstrating a leadership position that will influence countless others to emulate,” said Roy.

To learn more about Walmart’s new sustainable agriculture goals, read their press release.

Comments

  1. Saffron_et says

    It will take a lot more than just an empty promise from Walmart to make me shop there. With their less than favorable business practices, the way they treat their employees, their lack of respect for open space or environmental diversity and their undercutting of smaller, local stores, this one menial step does not jsutify lining their pockets any more than they already are. I hope people don’t think that this forgives Walmart for all of their previous (and current) transgressions.

    1. Molly Bergen says Post author

      From an environmental perspective, positive changes at a company the size of Walmart — the biggest company in the world by some measures — have an impact proportional to that size. We think that’s a good thing.

      Of course, we understand that not everyone is going to support everything CI does (or that our partners do) 100% … but our work with these partners is critical. Every sector of society must be responsible for nature to create a world that sustains humanity long after we’re gone from the Earth. We hope everyone can agree on that.

      You can read more about all of our environmental partnerships, from local communities to governments to businesses, here:

      http://www.conservation.org/discover/partnership/Pages/default.aspx

  2. PT says

    Walmart will have much more impact on sustainability than I will ever have. I applaud and encourge CI, which I just discovered BTW, to continue to work with other corporations to help them see the business value to stockholders and citizens of the world. How can I do the same for businesses in my area, Alexandria, VA? Are the materials that CI can provide to help me make a greater difference in my area?

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