BENTONVILLE, Ark., Feb. 26 (UPI) — Global retailing giant Wal-Mart said Thursday it plans to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain by the end of 2015.
It said the initiative was equivalent to removing more than 3.8 million cars from the road for a year and represents 1 1/2 times Wal-Mart’s estimated carbon growth over the next five years.
“We know we need to get ready for a world in which energy will only be more expensive,” said Wal-Mart President Michael T. Duke in the announcement via Webcast.
Wal-Mart estimates that more than 90 percent of its emissions come from the supply chain and the remainder from its stores and logistics operations.
The Arkansas company said it plans to reach its goal by having suppliers reduce “emissions involved in the sourcing, manufacturing, transportation, and disposal of the thousands of products it sells in its stores.”
It said supplier participation would not be mandatory.
Wal-Mart will focus first on sectors likely to yield the greatest amount of emissions reductions as well as the greatest amount of cost savings. Sectors likely to be tapped include apparel, food and products that consume a lot of electricity, said Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president for sustainability.
Kistler noted that the initiative was also a way of preparing for pending energy legislation. For “suppliers who could be adversely affected,” he said, “this will just put them further ahead.”
While the onus is on suppliers, Wal-Mart said it plans to work with them, providing technical support in seeking the best ways to achieve reductions.
The company, working with the Environmental Defense Fund, plans to produce a set of guidelines for itself and its suppliers to enable them to assess the extent of greenhouse gas reductions. Claims will be verified by ClearCarbon, a consultancy, and reviewed by PriceWaterhouseCoopers.
Wal-Mart’s plan could even prompt a “race, a treasure hunt” among suppliers to find competitive ways to cut emissions, said Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund.
Critics of Thursday’s announcement say that rather than change its business model, Wal-Mart pressures suppliers to change theirs and could lead them to cut corners and produce shoddier products, The New York Times reported.
Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, an advocacy group, points out that large stores such as Wal-Mart have been shown to entice consumers to drive farther from home. As Wal-Mart accelerates its presence overseas, she told the Times, its carbon footprint will further expand.
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