Wal-Mart expands sustainability efforts with coffee, trucks


Along with its visionary goals of reaching zero waste and using 100 percent renewable energy, Wal-Mart is launching - or planning - a number of smaller sustainability initiatives - from the trucks it ships products in, to the coffee on its shelves.

Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart's senior vice president for sustainability, spoke at University of California-Berkeley's Haas School of Business recently about the past and future of Wal-Mart's environmental initiatives.

In late 2005, the company unveiled its goals of reaching zero waste, using only renewable energy and selling products that sustain resources and the environment. "Today, we do not have clear-cut direction of how we're going to attain every goal" - Kistler said. As an example of how it's approaching renewable energy, Wal-Mart is planning 22 different solar projects to see which work best.

Some of its recent and coming programs are with its fleet. Although the company is planning to start rolling-out hybrid trucks later this month, it has already made its fleet 20 percent more efficient than in 2005 by designing aerodynamic trucks and using auxiliary power units that turn off the engine, but not the heating, cooling and lights.

To sell more earth-friendly products, Wal-Mart is introducing a line of environmentally friendly coffee this month. Under it's private label - Sam's Choice brand - the company now offers three Fair Trade Certified coffees, one Rainforest Alliance certified blend and one USDA Organic coffee. The coffees are roasted by Cafe Bom Dia - a Brazil-based company that offsets its emissions through CarbonNeutral.

The sustainable coffee roll-out is part of the company's Earth Month promotion. Throughout April, Wal-Mart is highlighting its greener products and informing customers how making better choices - especially on a large scale - can cause a difference. Wal-Mart is featuring more than 50 products in stores and 500 online - from transitional cotton shirts, to mulch made from rubber, to Clorox Green Works products.

The majority of Wal-Mart's environmental footprint, Kistler said, comes from suppliers. The company has direct control on about 8 percent of its footprint, with the remaining 92 percent coming from its supply chain. To green its supply chain, the company launched a packaging scorecard last year. By filling in information about products' packaging, suppliers are rated and find out their rank in relation to peers. Kistler said Wal-Mart works with suppliers, telling them what they can do to improve and let them know what other suppliers have done to reduce packaging.

Wal-Mart launched the packaging push as part of its goal to reduce packaging by 5 percent by 2013. Although suppliers were supposed to provide packaging information on all products by the end of February, Wal-Mart has only received information for about half of its products so far, according to the Arkansas Morning News.