Is Walmart a Sustainability Leader?  Yes, and… 

We should take a cue from their aggressive goal-setting and their collaborative approach to reducing the impacts of their supply chain. Ambitious goals: good for business, good for the planet.

By Nikki Hodgson February 28, 2017

In a recent Greenbiz article, Walmart’s Senior Director of Strategy and Sustainability Fred Bedore said:We are doing what we set out to do almost 12 years ago now, and that’s set ambitious goals because it’s good for our business.”  

Walmart, which recently acquired Moosejaw, has set (and achieved) some very ambitious goals over the years around reducing its emissions and investing in renewable energy. Its most recent emissions reduction plan (cut greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent by 2025 compared to 2015 levels, and source 50 percent renewable energy by the same date) is approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTI). 

Bedore goes on to explain, “Many leading suppliers of ours and other businesses large and small have really seen the value of working to improve the resilience and address these issues of emissions further back in the supply chain, because they understand that it makes good business sense.” 

We agree. As the OIA Sustainability Working Group, we have been working collaboratively for ten years not just to assess and improve the environmental and social impacts of our operations, but to set ambitious goals to do even better. Why? Because we believe it’s the right thing to do, yes. But we are a coalition of for-profit companies. If these goals and practices did not also support business growth and help to mitigate risk, they would not have survived.

Ambitious goals help drive innovation and increase efficiency. They encourage the right sort of competition, resulting in a race toward better business practices and products rather than a race toward the bottom. Walmart is taking a leadership position that we believe the outdoor industry, as a whole, could be taking. 

Outdoor industry retailers REI and MEC have been using their influence as retailers to help improve supply chain sustainability. Both retailers are encouraging their suppliers to adopt an industry-wide assessment tool (the Higg Index) that will help both individual companies and the broader industry identify opportunities for improvement, moving the outdoor industry closer toward establishing ambitious industry-wide targets around environmental and social responsibility. 

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By requesting that their vendors begin using the Higg Index, REI and MEC are making a move to set supply chain assessment and improvement as an expectation of all outdoor industry brands and suppliers. But it’s also a move to mainstream the collaborative efforts needed to adequately assess, understand, and develop solutions to mitigate challenges and establish better supply chain systems and innovative techniques, whether in sourcing, design, manufacturing, product repair and end of life.   

 With the Higg Index, we have an opportunity to set ambitious goals that will improve our industry and help us inspire global change. While the outdoor industry might be considered a relatively small one, it has already proven the impact its collective action can have on policy and public engagement. We believe the same can be true for sustainable supply chain practices. 

 REI and MEC are leading the charge when it comes to encouraging broader adoption of the Higg Index, asking the outdoor industry to join this effort and demonstrate both the innovation and the exponential sustainability influence that happens when we work together on shared challenges.  

Walmart believes that setting ambitious goals and working collaboratively to mitigate risk is good for business 

So do we.