Source: Walmart Sustainability Hub
By: Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, EDF+Business Supply Chain, Environmental Defense Fund and Sheila Bonini, Senior Vice President, Private Sector Engagement, WWF – World Wildlife Fund
Imagine, for a moment, what it would mean if the world’s biggest brands couldn’t access the key ingredients for their products. What if Starbucks had trouble sourcing coffee? What if Coca-Cola couldn’t access water? As the predicted effects of a changing climate such as droughts and rising temperatures become a reality, these “what if” questions raise serious concerns for global supply chains.
Such issues were foundational for last week’s Walmart Milestone sustainability summit at the company’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas. Our two NGOs work with Walmart as it pushes to fulfill its ambitious climate commitments.
One of those is Project Gigaton, which in its two-year lifespan has avoided 93 million metric tons of emissions toward the one billion ton goal. It may be the company’s most ambitious sustainability initiative, and we — along with dozens of other advocacy groups — have taken a keen interest in this initiative.
Businesses today are taking basic services and turning them into well-designed, convenient user-friendly experiences. You see it every day with companies like Spotify and Seamless. Or Netflix, which is suggesting I watch The Great British Baking Show, based on my family’s viewing-history.
Now, imagine the possibilities if we applied this business model to sustainability.
The Supply Chain Solutions Center does just that. Launched today in partnership with over 10 leading environmental NGOs, this innovative platform puts resources and expert advice at the fingertips of sustainability professionals.
Taken on Nov. 19, 2018 from my San Francisco apartment rooftop
I have helped Walmart, Starbucks and other companies get started with sustainability. I can help you too, using all the lessons I’ve learned from them.
I don’t want to sound like just another environmentalist waving my hands, jumping up and down that we need to act to reverse climate change NOW. The truth is simply this: I know it can be done, sustainability targets create business value and companies stand to lose big financially if they don’t act.
Recent research on corporate sustainability indicates that companies still have a long journey ahead in order to meet their sustainability goals. Only four percent of companies recently surveyed by Bain & Company feel that they’ve succeeded in achieving their sustainability goals, while 47% feel that they’ve failed altogether.
Theresa Eberhardt, Project Coordinator, Supply Chain
These numbers might seem discouraging to some, but not to me. I’ve been in the sustainability space for over five years, working primarily in supply chains, and over this time, I’ve learned that the first step to success is acknowledging where you’re starting from. I’m also encouraged by EDF+Business, which has been helping companies meet their supply chain goals for over 25 years. These numbers show me that more and more companies are doing the hard work of evaluating and reporting on their own operations and supply chains. If you’re a sustainability officer at a large multinational corporation, we know that this can be a daunting task. However, you should relish the fact that you have the opportunity to make meaningful change on a huge scale. It just takes some focus, and the right business strategy.
As a working mother, I often have to multi-task. Recently, as I watched my toddler push his food around his plate, I caught up on last week’s news that Fortune had released its annual “Change the World” list of top companies using the profit motive to help the planet and tackle social problems.
About 10 percent of this list consists of corporate leaders who are thinking critically about the challenge to feed our world in a sustainable way without destroying our planet, including companies like Kroger (#6), Walmart (#16), Tyson Foods (#44), McDonald’s (#50) and PepsiCo (#57). These companies know that a thriving community requires a fed community.
While I’m thankful to Fortune for sharing best practices from these incredible, game-changing companies, I’m also painfully aware that the corporate sector at large has a lot more work to do: a recent survey by Bain & Company found that only four percent of companies feel that they’ve succeeded in achieving their sustainability goals, while 47 percent feel that they’ve failed altogether.
Speaking as both a mother and a sustainable supply chain specialist, that’s simply not good enough. We are already facing the massive challenge of producing even more food with fewer inputs. We are already facing increasingly variable weather. And in just a few decades, our planet will be home to 2 billion more people to feed.
What’s my point? Next year, food and agriculture companies, I want to see more of you on Fortune’s list. So to help you on this quest, I’m officially issuing you a two-part challenge:
Credit: Flickr user Mike Mozart
What can happen when the CEO of the world’s largest retailer says publicly that making the world better is more important than sales? The answer: a gigaton.
I was able to attend Walmart’s annual Sustainability Milestone Summit for the first time last month in Arkansas, and as EDF+Business’ new lead on climate change and energy issues in the supply chain, I have to say it was an incredible experience. At work was a tangible display of EDF+Business’ supply chain theory of change – that some companies have the power to move markets, and if they choose to, can use that power to accelerate progress on climate change.