Walmart 2012 CSR Report: Focus on Waste, Renewables, Local Food

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Photo courtesy Walmart.

Ready to comb through Walmart’s 2012 Global Responsibility Report? The past year has been a bumpy one for Walmart’s sustainability agenda. On one hand, the retail giant has made strides with its renewable energy agenda from Colorado to Louisiana, local food sourcing and employee engagement. The company’s critics counter that what Walmart is promising is falling far short of the company’s actual performance. Edwards Hume’s book, Force of Nature, sums up what many observers think about Walmart: the strides are impressive but in the end, whether Walmart is really a “sustainable company” is questionable. The truth, in fact, is quite nuanced.

To that end, Walmart’s critics and fans should take a look at Walmart’s 2012 Global Responsibility Report just released this morning.


Some of the highlights include:

Clean Energy: Walmart has set an ambitious long term goal of running its U.S. stores and distribution centers on 100 percent renewable energy. The goal is not only ambitious because of its size, but because of cost. To install solar panels on all of its properties now would spike prices so high that Walmart would have to raise prices that would in turn dent the company’s profits. So Walmart has moved incrementally, and just last week hit a milestone with its 100th solar installation in Colorado. Walmart stores in Canada and China completed their first solar installation as well. So far the clean energy Walmart uses to power its stores, which is about 22 percent of the company’s electricity needs, is enough to fuel 78,000 American homes annually. While the company has a long way to go to hit that goal in eight years, a dose of perspective is needed. Walmart is the second largest buyer of clean energy among U.S retailers and is the second largest onsite generator of renewables in the U.S.

Waste Diversion: What critics sniff at as the largest seller of cheap goods is paradoxically edging closer to a zero waste company. To date Walmart U.S. prevents 80 percent of its operational waste out of landfills. Reusable bags are not the norm yet, but Walmart has cut plastic bag waste by 35 percent since 2007. Across the Pacific in Japan, Walmart now has 100 stores that achieved a 100 percent recycle status. Meanwhile stores in China and the United Kingdom have decreased the amount of food waste by either composting or donating to charities. Walmart’s aggressive zero landfill waste program has paid dividends with $231 million returned to the business in 2011.

Local Food: Walmart’s rise to becoming the world’s largest retailer in part stems from its formidable logistics capabilities, from RFID tags to an agile trucking fleet. But the absurdity of hauling food long distances has resonated within the company, so now the big box store is starting to buy from small farms. Last year, Walmart almost doubled the amount of locally-sourced produce sold in the U.S., which accounts for 10 percent of all produce bought at its stores.

There is more to Walmart’s sustainability and corporate responsibility initiatives, from philanthropy to supply chain diversity. The company has committed to sourcing $20 billion worth of goods from women-owned businesses. The company’s foundation has given millions of dollars to women’s advocacy groups including Vital Voices. A new Sustainability Index has been integrated within the company’s business to evaluate and improve the sustainability performance of the company’s products. Both stores and the c-suites are becoming more diverse. And long after Hurricane Katrina, the company has built on its legacy as a disaster assistance organization by contributing to relief efforts in Japan and Jopin, MO.

Walmart’s executives will host a live webcast this Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. PST (11:00 a.m. EST) to shine more light on the company’s sustainability achievements and future goals. Watch for the conversation to continue on Walmart’s Green Room portal.

Leon Kaye, based in California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business and Inhabitat. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Walmart.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

One response

  1.   Hello, I worked at the walmart in Exton, Pa. for nearly 10-years. I always had great reviews and got many notices of excellent customer service and everything was going fine, Then we got a new store manager who was severely verbally abusive to many employees, myself, and even a mentally handicapped female employee who he would bash until she was hysterically crying and couldn’t even continue working. Other employees told me they were afraid they would be fired if they report it, and said that i would also be fired if i report it. I told them, this is America, not some degenerate country. We have rights and laws to protect us from that and we cannot be fired for reporting bad work conditions. They said everybody knows that walmart controls the government, legal system, politicians and everything with its lawyers and money. They break the law all the time and pride themselves on being able to get away with it, They will fire you if you report any wrongdoing. I thought these beliefs to be very sad, shameful,pitiful, and unAmerican. In an attempt to secure a decent, reasonable workplace for my fellow employees and I, I started reporting the abusive manager and sure enough, he began making negative comments to me about reporting him and fired me. At that point i went to the NLRB and they filed a charge on walmart. Walmart obviously knew they were in trouble facing that charge, so they reinstated my job in exchange for dropping the charge, but then when i returned to work i was consistently subjected to much retaliation and fired twice more in a relatively short period of time do to lies being told by the same district manager who was in charge and ignored all my reports about the abusive store manager. The first subsequent firing i was able to prove was completely false and have overturned, but then the same district manager again made up more lies which resulted in my being fired yet again. I had filed another complaint with the NLRB concerning the illegal retaliation and harrasment i was being subjected to since returning to work, which i then ammended to a complaint of blatent obvious retaliatory firing and i am still trying to get some help with this one. I am not a kid trying to get a few extra bucks at walmart. This was my career. I was a very dedicated, loyal, hardworking employee who many people used to ask why i work so hard and care so much about my job. I am 46 years old, i have lost 10-years of my life i had invested in that company which i can never get back, and now i will surely never be able to retire in my lifetime, all due to being the one to do the right thing, put my trust and faith in our once great American system, and stand up for the right of my fellow employees and i to have a decent and reasonable workplace and report the widespread severe verbal abuse that was going on in our store. When i went back to the NLRB to report the obviously retaliatory firing, they seemed like they were going to help me, but then told me that the walmart lawyer had contacted them and they no longer want to pursue the case. when i submitted a complaint about the obviously retaliatory illegal firing, the NLRB very suspiciously dismissed it based on a bunch of false information and even slanderous, defamotory lies told to them by walmart which the NLRB had no problem recklessly printing in a government file. If you would like to help me in my very difficult and expensive legal struggle, and help to support taking a stand, and making a statement against employee abuse, corruption, and the stripping of even the most basic constitutional civil rights that is now occurring in our once great country, it would be greatly appreciated. As long as this type of thing is allowed to go on in America we are in a state of deterioration of everything that this country is supposed to stand for. Thank You, God bless You, and God bless America. Sincerely, Robert Snodgrass, 715 Taylor rd, Downingtown Pa. 19335 484-252-9596

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