Walmart recently announced it is accelerating its target of being run on 100% renewable energy, and shaping their reputation as a leader in corporate sustainable development.
At last week’s Walmart Global Sustainability Milestone meeting, company President and CEO Mike Duke said the retail giant plans to get or create 7 billion kWh of annual global renewable energy by December 31, 2020. That’s a 600% advance over 2010 levels.
Meanwhile, Walmart expects to drop the kWh/sq. ft. energy intensity by 20% from 2010 levels in powering their buildings worldwide.
When fully implemented, the plan will mean huge savings for the company and the planet. Walmart expects annual savings of $1 billion, while cutting nine million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
“More than ever, we know that our goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy is the right goal and that marrying up renewables with energy efficiency is especially powerful,” Duke said.
“The math adds up pretty quickly – when we use less energy that’s less energy we have to buy, and that means less waste and more savings. These new commitments will make us a stronger business, and they’re great for our communities and the environment,” he said.
Once vilified by many environmentalists, Walmart’s transformation from an environmental bully to a sustainability champion has been remarkable.
In the 2005 documentary Walmart: The High Cost of Low Prices, critically acclaimed filmmaker Robert Greenwald exposed the company’s lackluster environmental practices.
However, a 2005 rafting trip between than company CEO Lee Scott and sustainability expert Jib Ellison was the beginning of Walmart’s environmental makeover. Ellison made the case to Scott that sustainable development was not about being a hippie. Rather, it was about efficiency, and cutting waste.
Walmart since then have taken Ellison’s words to heart:
- For example, the company has saved $2 million to date, from 200 US solar projects.
- Walmart has more solar systems and solar capacity than all the other companies in the US.
- Walmart and SolarCityannounced in March they are putting up 6 million kWh of solar energy in 12 Ohio locations, including various Sam’s Club locations.
- 17% of Walmart’s energy use and 21% of its electricity now from renewable sources.
While critics should rightfully have concerns about some of Walmart’s practices, their commitment towards renewable energy is a good guide for other corporate leaders who are on the fence on environmental sustainability. A push from a retail giant could be enough for other corporate leaders to get in the game.