Climate 411

President Obama Goes to Walmart

I never really expected to be sitting in a Walmart in Mountain View, CA listening to President Obama speak about environmental commitments, but I am excited for the momentum he is generating, particularly in the private sector, to support the EPA announcement on carbon limits on June 2nd.

So why Walmart?

The President is making a point. Walmart gets about 25 percent of its global electricity from renewables. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources. In 2005, Walmart set a goal to be supplied 100 percent by renewable energy. To date Walmart has 335 renewable energy projects underway or in development across their global portfolio. Having the president hold Walmart up as a role model is a great way to drive other industry leaders to follow suit.

Obama Walmart

This recognition is great news to EDF since we are a key NGO partner to Walmart and have been working with them on environmental solutions since 2005. (See the full EDF – Walmart partnership timeline). In 2008, EDF and Walmart announced a jointly-developed clean energy project to install and assess next generation solar technology at over 30 Walmart facilities. Today Walmart has 250 solar energy systems installed in the U.S. and has a solar energy capacity of 65,000 kW, top of the Solar Energy Industries Association rankings of U.S. companies.

Are industry leaders following suit?

The private and public sector commitments announced today represent more than 850 megawatts of solar deployed – enough to power nearly 130,000 homes – as well as energy efficiency investments that will lower bills for more than 1 billion square feet of buildings. Additionally, the President announced new executive actions that will lead to $2 billion in energy efficiency investments in Federal buildings.

We are especially excited to see companies step up for the President’s Better Buildings Challenge which will improve energy efficiency of more than 1 billion square feet of new floor space by 20 percent by 2020. New to the President’s roster are General Motors (committing 84 million square feet), MGM Resorts (78 million square feet) and Walmart (850 million square feet).

See the complete listing of private and public sector organizations making commitments today for solar deployment and energy efficiency.

Here at EDF, we believe that companies and business leaders must pave the way to a low-carbon and prosperous economy. Today Walmart committed to double the number of onsite solar energy projects at U.S. Stores, Sam’s Clubs and distribution centers by 2020. This is in addition to their goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their global supply chain by 20 million metric tons by the end of 2015.

We think President Obama’s making his announcement at Walmart today was a clear signal to the public and private sector that business needs to step up and publicly commit to ambitious environmental goals. Walmart continues to do this, and we look forward to many other industry leaders following suit.

This blog originally appeared on EDF Biz.

Posted in Energy, Green Jobs, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Jobs, Partners for Change / Read 3 Responses

Why Walmart’s Carbon Commitment Can Make Such a Difference

Archimedes said “Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth,” when explaining the principle of levers.

Leverage is the big news about Walmart’s announcement today. The company has committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.8 million cars.

So is Walmart moving the earth? No, not yet. But this is precisely the kind of innovative approach to reducing carbon pollution that we need right now. Environmental Defense Fund worked closely with Walmart to craft this goal and project that makes the most of what Walmart can uniquely do to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

This commitment is bold because:

  • Walmart’s supply chain is where the action is. It’s the biggest possible lever that Walmart could bring to the table. Walmart will work with suppliers to reduce their emissions – which they otherwise might not do – resulting in positive ripple effects around the globe.
  • It prioritizes the biggest opportunities. Walmart is looking at the products that create the most carbon emissions across their lifecycles – as well as products that are top sellers – and focusing on those first.
  • It gets carbon pollution reductions now. There’s no waiting for the United States or the world to act.
  • It will likely reach ten of thousands of companies around the globe – companies that would not be required to reduce emissions by national or international regulatory proposals but will greatly benefit from energy efficiency efforts.
  • It adds to a drumbeat of clear messaging to suppliers from Walmart that they need to reduce carbon pollution. This commitment follows the Sustainability Index, Product Innovation work with Private Brands and other initiatives.
  • It’s good for business and good for customers. This project is about Walmart and its suppliers working hand-in-hand to find ways to drive carbon and energy – and cost – out of the supply chain. Walmart customers care about America’s energy future. They see tangible value from carbon reductions every time a lower carbon product costs less or uses dramatically less energy once they get it home.

Two kinds of change: Simple but big and transformational
In this project we will look at two different kinds of opportunities. The first opportunities are simple and relatively small changes that, when coupled with Walmart’s scale, become big reductions. The other opportunities are more transformational, where we dive deep and engage an industry or consumers to fundamentally change products or their uses.

DVD packaging is an example of a simple change that adds up because of Walmart’s scale.

A couple of years ago, Walmart asked one of its DVD suppliers – 20th Century Fox – to be a part of a pilot for our project. They made simple changes to make DVD packaging lighter, which cut energy use by 28% and reduced the lifecycle carbon emissions of DVDs sold to Walmart by about 25,000 tons. It had a big multiplier effect, too, because the lighter packages were also used on DVDs sold at other stores, and the change evolved from movies to video games and software too. Small change – big cumulative effect.

One of the other pilot projects Walmart tried was milk. This is an example of a project that falls into the category of industry transformation. Agriculture contributes 8% of the total U.S. carbon footprint, and the dairy industry is a significant contributor. At Walmart’s request, several dairy suppliers analyzed the costs and emissions associated with a gallon of milk, from dairy farm to distribution center. By gathering and looking at the data, we found many opportunities to reduce emissions – at farms through changes in fertilizer and manure management, at dairy processing facilities through improved energy efficiency and even in the product itself, such as making milk shelf-stable.

Some of these changes are now underway at one of Walmart’s suppliers, Dean Foods. We’re estimating that this one supplier alone can reduce CO2 emissions by 300,000 tons overall by 2015. If these changes were adopted throughout the dairy industry, we estimate that we could see over 2 million tons of greenhouse gas reductions in the same period.

Will this be easy? To put it simply: No. Looking deep into the supply chain and across product lifecycles for carbon pollution reduction wins is uncharted territory. The cross-organizational team working on this project has spent months creating a detailed guidance document about what can count towards Walmart’s goal, as well as how reductions should be quantified and confirmed. We’re committed to making this project as transparent as possible and will be publicly releasing the guidance document within a month for anyone who wishes to comment or share ideas.

Walmart’s action today won’t eliminate the need for a national and global cap on carbon pollution. These caps are absolutely necessary. We can’t solve our pollution problems without them. But negotiations take time, and while the clock keeps ticking, carbon pollution keeps building up in our atmosphere. Today, Walmart has shown that is it not waiting to act to reduce global carbon pollution.

Read more about Walmart’s commitment and view the webcast of the announcement.

Originally posted on Environmental Defense Fund’s Innovation Exchange blog.

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