Sustainable Practices Of Walmart
Walmart is a US transnational retail company founded by Sam Walton in Arkansas. It rapidly started to internationalize in 1991 in Europe, United Kingdom, China, Japan and many other countries. Nowadays, Walmart is the world’s leading generalist supermarket group ahead of its competitor Carrefour with 3,500 stores all over the world.
Because of the scale of its operations, the store had huge environmental impacts and issues and therefore, its reputation was deteriorating. The question of sustainable practices began to take hold but was it really possible to implement it? The massive emissions of Walmart’s suppliers, the enormous use of electricity needed, and the violation of air and water pollution laws seemed to hinder the company’s sustainability efforts. On the other hand, thanks to its international reach and global presence, Walmart had access to an important network: it was able to dialog with government policymakers, NGO’s and eco-friendly competitors that helped the retail store improve its eco-impact. Its success is partially due to a brilliant team of top executives, high potential employees and remarkable consultants who get to rapidly identify the environmental goals that have to be achieved. Thus, the prodigious size and resources of Walmart can assist its sustainability efforts.
Thereafter, Walmart focused on the progress of the electronic, seafood and textile networks in order to take action. In my opinion, the seafood network has been very successful compared to the textile and electronic ones: indeed, the store convened with various suppliers, the WWF and top universities to implement MSC certification on its seafood products. The suppliers were told to progress in correcting problems because otherwise, Walmart would re-consider them. Finally, Walmart expected to have almost half of its total wild-caught fish certified under MSC by the end of 2006 which is a remarkable success. On the other hand, the electronics network also improved its issues through materials innovation, e-waste and green engineering but to the smallest scale. They took the remarkable risk to be the first ones to sale RoHS compliant PC’s (electronic equipment with hazardous substances restrictions). But in the end, they had to face complicating factors in the electronics arena mostly because of intellectual property: factories that are more energy efficient have an advantage over their competitors and the supply of information to Walmart was very restricted. Thus, Walmart encouraged suppliers to license their environmental innovations, but the benefits were not as high as expected. Finally, concerning the textile network progress went through the establishment of organic cotton and transportation improvements. However, to effectively reduce environmental impacts in this arena, the industry has to invest in expensive technologies that completely change the manufacturing process and it is too challenging for Walmart: indeed, innovative companies don’t reach the necessary scale to supply the group.
I believe that Walmart is moving the sustainability movement forward in a successful way because it continues to offer a large choice of sustainable products at affordable prices while having an opportunity to influence consumer behavior in a way that also protects our environment. In addition, Walmart shares its knowledge by informing internal and external stakeholders about changes in the industries and the potential implications and opportunities related to sustainability. This mindset is a big step towards a global awareness of sustainable practices.