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Walmart CEO Doug McMillon laid out aggressive environmental and sustainability goals last Friday at the Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia, saying that it wants to Walmart is double the sales of locally grown produce in the U.S.; expand and enhance sustainable sourcing to cover 20 key commodities, including bananas, coffee and tea; and implement a new plan designed to achieve science-based targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In a statement released with the presentation, Walmart said that it would be "the first retailer with an emissions-reduction plan approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, in alignment with the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015. Under the approved plan, Walmart will use a combination of energy-efficiency measures, together with a commitment to source half of the company’s energy needs from renewable sources, to achieve an 18 percent emissions reduction in its own operations by 2025. Additionally, Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 Gigaton by 2030, equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of U.S. roads and highways for a year."

“We want to make sure Walmart is a company that our associates and customers are proud of - and that we are always doing right by them and by the communities they live in,” McMillon said. “That’s really what these commitments are about. And that’s why we’re so passionate about them.”

McMillon also focused on company programs designed to "train hundreds of thousands of U.S. associates by the end of next year, providing them with skills needed to move from entry-level positions to jobs with more responsibility and higher pay, along with a new pledge to take a leadership role in promoting ethical recruitment and treatment of workers in the global retail supply chain."

Walmart also said that it will join the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, described as "a collaboration of businesses and NGO partners working to ensure ethical recruitment and treatment of workers globally."

The Associated Press writes that "Wal-Mart's goals, being announced Friday by CEO Doug McMillon, follow a plan set in 2005 as the company sought to deflect criticism of its practices and burnish its image. Wal-Mart has extended its effort since then into its supply chain, which because of its size — more than 10,000 stores globally — gives it outsized influence on the overall industry."

And the story notes that "Kathleen McLaughlin, a Wal-Mart senior vice president, said she couldn't estimate how much the programs will save or cost. While they have an impact on society, they overall also make good business sense, she said."
KC's View:
I may be most interested in the point that McMillon made about aligning Walmart's environmental goals with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, especially since there seems to be at least a possibility that the next President of the United States could be a guy who has said that he is "not a big fan" of those accords, and that “at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements.” It is interesting timing, but perhaps it had more to do with when the Net Impact Conference was taking place, as opposed to the presidential election.

I'm sure that Walmart will get some criticism for its decisions, at least in part from folks who think that it isn't going far enough.

But I give the company a lot of credit for trying to do the right thing. McMillon seems to accept the notion that Walmart's size and ubiquity gives it extra responsibilities, and he appears focused on living up to them while understanding that he also has to keep the company productive and profitable. That's not an easy balancing act, but I think he's decided to take the long view - his approach may create some short term rough spots, but the decisions will bear fruit (some of it, apparently, fair trade and/or local) in the long run.