Walmart announces green target completion, critics allege greenwash

Walmart has announced the completion of commitments to reduce 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global supply chain, double fleet efficiency, and expanded an existing commitment to preserve wildlife habitat.

In parallel an independent report from the US-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) has found that Walmart is one of the US’s largest users of coal-fired electricity, and that its heavy reliance on coal power produces nearly 8 million metric tons of carbon pollution annually.

Walmart’s U.S. operations, the report details, use nearly six times the amount of electricity as the entire U.S. auto industry. The operations use more than 4.2 million tons of coal each year, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the company’s total emissions from U.S. electricity use.

Walmart’s own announcement commemorates the 10-year anniversary of its sustainability agenda launch and celebrated the elimination of 28.2mn metric tonnes of GHG emissions from its global supply chain, exceeding its 2015 target of 20 million metric tons.

“Our company has made major strides since we embarked on this journey, and our focus for the next decade will remain the same: doing the right thing for our customers, our communities, people working in the supply chain and the planet. Our approach to global responsibility not only makes sense for the environment, but it’s also good for our customers, and our business,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. said in a press statement.

In parallel, Walmart has doubled its fleet efficiency, as a result of which the company expects to save nearly $1 billion compared to a 2005 baseline in this fiscal year alone.

Walmart also announced that it is renewing its conservation efforts by committing $35 million over the next ten years to Acres for America. This builds on contributions since 2005 to preserve and restore more than 1 million acres of wildlife habitat through 61 projects across the U.S..

The company also announced the completion and exceeding of several key food commitments under its sustainability pillars of affordability, accessibility, health and transparency

While Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer for Walmart, has stated that the company’s journey is far from over, ISLR’s senior researcher, Stacy Mitchell, has said “Walmart has made remarkably little progress in moving to renewable energy, while other national retailers and many small businesses are now generating a sizable share of their power from clean sources.”

Many other retailers, including Kohl’s and Ikea, are dramatically outpacing Walmart in the shift to renewable energy. Ikea has installed rooftop solar panels on 90 percent of its U.S. stores, including in many heavy coal-using states where Walmart has no renewable energy projects.

Walmart’s few clean energy projects do little to offset its heavy reliance on coal-fired electricity, providing just 3 percent of its total U.S. electricity, ISLR reports.