Walmart’s The Green Room recently published a blog about shoeboxes. For a behemoth retailer like Walmart, one would think that worrying about shoeboxes isn’t high on its list of priorities. But this attention to detail is the kind of thing that makes environmental progress possible and Walmart effective.
In 2005, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Walmart partnered to transform the consumer retail industry. We’ve received plenty of criticism for that, but these shoeboxes are the perfect example behind our reasoning. When the largest company in the world decides to pay attention to shoeboxes, the impact is huge. In only ten months, Walmart produced 14.4 million shoeboxes, and saved 692 tons of paper and 400,000 pounds of solid waste, among other impressive figures.
Walmart realized that by manufacturing its own shoeboxes, it could have more control over the design. Innovative thinking and an unconventional decision led to some impressive results – a 43 percent reduction of paper use and 28 percent in costs. Companies need to think creatively and ask questions. Asking “why” is always a good place to start. Why do we do things this way? Is it to save money, or is it because this is the way we’ve been doing it for years? The greatest innovations are a result of someone just asking “why?” Don’t be afraid to challenge the system.
The significance behind this one blog post goes much further than just the savings Walmart found in switching shoeboxes, but it is the sharing of these learnings that will ripple through the industry. When Walmart communicates innovations and asks its 100,000 suppliers to do the same, it creates real opportunities for big change. Just imagine how much more we can achieve if more companies were willing to share their environmental wins?
Companies, like Walmart, have the resources to make change happen. They can strategize and implement with speed, pushing the envelope on innovation and environmental sustainability. I sincerely hope that more retailers, and all companies for that matter, will explore environmental opportunities, implement similar initiatives and share the results of their work so we can take the change we need to scale, and create a healthier economy and planet.