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Walmart’s Project Gigaton: How to Get Started on Your Own Sustainability Journey

Image Credit: Europe 1

Recently, Walmart announced a bold initiative to cut a gigaton (aka 1 billion tons) of emissions from its supply chain. Achieving this moonshot will require many companies to act — and given the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, the timing couldn’t be better.

I’m often asked, “Why did Walmart do this?” My 25 years of working with companies tells me the answer is obvious: Because it’s good for business!

It’s good for the bottom line, for PR, for reducing supply chain risk, for engaging employees and for keeping your customers — who are increasingly demanding environmental leadership — both happy and loyal.

In other words, if you want to be a forward-looking business that continues to grow and thrive, you must do this. That’s why dozens of global companies urged President Trump to adhere to the Paris Agreement: They know that innovation is at the core of building the new, low-carbon economy, and being out in front on corporate sustainability means maintaining their competitive edge.

These leading companies also know this: The more action taken on sustainability, the bigger the reward. As companies move past the easy, low-hanging fruit on energy management, for example, they’re seeing a bigger ROI and are in a position to accomplish even bigger goals. The fact that Walmart exceeded its 5-year supply chain emissions reduction goal in 2015 set it up to take the bold move of Project Gigaton.

But if you’re one of Walmart’s 100,000+ suppliers, you’re probably saying, “Ok, that’s all great. But where do I start?”

Here’s what you need to do: Commit, Execute, Scale.

  • Commit means crafting a strong set of sustainability goals that align with science, empower employees and send a clear market signal to suppliers.
  • Execute involves establishing baselines and doing the work to hit measurable targets.
  • Once you have successfully done that, it’s time to Scale by spreading best practices and creating momentum for long-term systematic and policy change.

Sounds easy, right? It’s not. But, the payoff, for both your business and the planet, will be huge.

And, there is a host of resources available to suppliers: Walmart has a toolkit and a Sustainability Hub, while EDF has the Supply Chain Solutions Center, which gathers our knowledge and experience from all of these years of working with companies into one place (and puts a focus on actionable options for companies who are looking for answers). Over the coming months, the Supply Chain Solution Center will be presenting an on-going webinar series (the first one on June 14th will specifically address getting started on Project Gigaton), as well as case studies, diagnostic tools and a chance to connect with experts in all areas of sustainable supply chains.

So, jump in, and jump in now! The first step is to simply begin walking on the sustainability path. The learnings from doing that can help inform and give confidence to do more. An initiative of this magnitude will take a village to execute, which is exciting. A challenge such as Project Gigaton catalyzes leadership and innovative solutions around the globe … and organizations such as EDF will be here to help along the way.

Your business, and our planet, depend on it. 

Elizabeth Sturcken leads the work of EDF’s Supply Chain EDF + Business team. She works to leverage the power of the marketplace to make every product safer, healthier and better for the environment.

She has been at EDF for… [Read more about Elizabeth Sturcken]

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