Retailers

Walmart Tallies Its Progress on Global ESG Goals

Transparency, accountability in focus as retailer details progress on wide-ranging social responsibility initiatives
Supply chains are a key focus of Walmart's ESG efforts
Photograph courtesy of Walmart

Urgency and accountability were key themes of Walmart's latest ESG reporting, as the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer detailed the progress it has made in the past year on a variety of environmental, social and governance fronts.

The past year's public health and economic crises laid bare vulnerabilities in supply chains, communities and natural ecosystems, and an ambitious, continually evolving response is needed to address these, Walmart contended. "The challenges facing business and society require collective action from us all," Walmart EVP and Chief Sustainability Officer Kathleen McLaughlin wrote in a post on the company's website. "The pandemic demonstrated how small but widespread changes in individual behavior can produce large-scale, positive effects. We believe businesses can be part of the solution."

As part of its effort to combat climate change and become a regenerative company, Walmart sourced an estimated 36% of its global electricity needs from renewable sources in 2020. The company has committed to 100% renewable energy use by 2035—a goal that Walmart will pursue against an increasingly challenging backdrop: The company's own climate-change modeling suggests that heating and cooling costs could rise in two-thirds of Walmart locations by 2030.

"Our own analysis also suggests that climate change has the potential to disproportionately impact vulnerable populations, including communities of color," the company stated in its newly released 2021 ESG reporting. Walmart's work to "advocate for climate solutions that advance equity," according to the company, includes recent work in Florida to negotiate a large-scale shared-solar program to provide clean energy for low-income residents in the state. 

Walmart also touted its commitment to achieving net-zero carbon emissions through emissions reduction across its operations rather than through just purchasing carbon offsets. "Our goal is to achieve zero emissions across Walmart’s global operations by 2040, reducing absolute scopes 1 and 2 GHG emissions by 35% by 2025 and by 65% by 2030 from our 2015 base year," the company stated. It has a ways to go in meeting those targets: Between 2015 and 2019—before the energy demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic—Walmart cut emissions by 12.1%.

In 2020, Walmart also began twice-yearly disclosure of diversity data; launched the Walmart.org Center for Racial Equity, pledging $100 million through 2025 to organizations working to advance equity; and sponsored and participated in McKinsey & Co. research on racial inequities in the private sector.

See also: Walmart’s DEI Director Talks Building Equity Into Talent Career Cycle

The company's 2021 ESG briefs detail further commitments to protecting, managing or restoring at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030, including goals of sourcing paper and food products from deforestation-free sources and having 100% sustainably sourced seafood in all Walmart North and Central America locations by 2025. 

The company's updated policies and priorities are meant to "further foster a culture of accountability, transparency and trust," Walmart's McLaughlin wrote, ending with an all-hands-on-deck call: "As a stakeholder in Walmart, your collaboration on this journey is key to meeting the challenges of our time." 

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