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Walmart Announces Goal to Become a Regenerative Company

The world’s largest retailer targets zero emissions by 2040 and aims to protect or restore at least 50M acres of land and 1M square miles of ocean by 2030 — but are there gaps in its plan?

Today, Walmart kicked off Climate Week NYC by announcing its latest strategy to address the climate crisis — it has committed to zero emissions across the company’s global operations by 2040. The world’s largest retailer also joins a growing list of major companies — including Anheuser-Busch, Cargill, Danone, General Mills, Kering, L’Oréal, Natura, Timberland and Wrangler, to name a few — that have set their sights on moving beyond net zero impacts to having a regenerative effect on the natural environment; Walmart has also committed to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.

“For 15 years, we have been partnering to do the work and continually raising our sustainability ambitions across climate action, nature, waste and people,” said Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon. “The commitments we’re making today not only aim to decarbonize Walmart’s global operations, they also put us on the path to becoming a regenerative company — one that works to restore, renew and replenish in addition to preserving our planet; and encourages others to do the same.”

Walmart aims to achieve its zero-emissions goal, without the use of carbon offsets, across its global operations by:

  • Harvesting enough renewable energy to power its facilities with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035;

  • The CSO-CFO-IR Connection in Practice

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    Electrifying and zeroing out emissions from all of its vehicles, including long-haul trucks, by 2040; and

  • Transitioning to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in its stores, clubs, and data and distribution centers by 2040.

The world has also pushed its natural resources to the point of crisis; resulting in the degradation and loss of critical landscapes, and the eradication of many species of plants and animals. Not only can a regenerative approach to nature help reverse the negative impacts of unchecked human and industry growth in the past 50 years and sustain critical resources for the future, it can also provide around a third of the solution to climate change.

Today, Walmart is committing to protect, manage or restore some of the world’s most critical landscapes by:

  • Continuing to support efforts to preserve at least one acre of natural habitat for every acre of land developed by the company in the US;

  • Driving the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices, sustainable fisheries management and forest protection and restoration — including an expansion of Walmart’s forests policy; and

  • Investing in and working with suppliers to source from place-based efforts that help preserve natural ecosystems and improve livelihoods.

Meanwhile, while McMillon prepared to announce Walmart’s new commitments at the opening ceremony of Climate Week today, a coalition of environmental NGOs and the 100,000+ consumers that support them latched on to one particular aspect of the plan — the fact that the retailer won’t be phasing out harmful refrigerants until 2040.

Green America, Greenpeace USA, Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and their partners are urging Walmart to move faster on climate-harming refrigerant hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). The groups point out that a 2040 deadline is decades after its major competitors — including Aldi, Target, and Whole Foods — started making the switch. Walmart’s announcement also failed to offer a plan to address the current leaks of HFCs from its stores.

Walmart’s announcement today comes after more than 100,000 consumers recently joined Green America, Greenpeace USA, Friends of the Earth, LeftNet, Progressive Network Reform and other environmental NGOs in calling on the retail giant to reduce emissions from the refrigerants used in its 11,500 stores worldwide. The massive outpouring of petitions to the largest brick-and-mortar retailer and grocery chain in the US were delivered directly to Walmart over the past month. 

“After mounting consumer pressure and regulatory movement, Walmart has finally announced its new intent to address refrigerants, but offers no specifics on what refrigerants it will use and includes no public goals on its current refrigerant leaks that are fueling the climate crisis,” said Beth Porter, Green America’s Climate Campaigns director. “Potent HFC gases make up nearly half of Walmart’s direct emissions and the company has known this for years. It’s past time for Walmart to take action and we need to see clearer details and a more aggressive timeline.”

Green America’s Cool It campaign addresses hydrofluorocarbons — refrigerants that are a major contributor to climate change. Well before the millions of refrigerators around the world reach their end of life; these harmful, synthetic gases leak into the atmosphere — HFCs are the fastest-increasing greenhouse gas and are thousands of times more potent than CO2. 

Walmart received a failing grade on the EIA’s Climate-Friendly Supermarkets scorecard because of its failure to install HFC-free refrigerants in any of its stores or join the EPA’s GreenChill program that works with food retailers to reduce refrigerant emissions. EIA initiated conversations with Walmart around the company’s refrigerant practices in 2015.

Consumers can continue to support the campaign to get Walmart to eliminate refrigerant emissions by joining Green America’s campaign. They can also support supermarkets that are taking action on refrigerants through EIA’s Climate Friendly Supermarket Map and “thank you” action in partnership with Green America.

Learn more about Walmart’s new zero emissions and nature commitments here.

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