Sustainability

Seeking: Leading Companies to Drive Renewable Energy Revolution

Editor's Note: Earlier this month, Walmart joined Bloomberg, Facebook, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Mars, Novelis, Procter and Gamble, REI, and Sprint in signing the Renewable Energy Buyer’s Principles. The goal of these Principles is to increase availability of cost-competitive renewable energy to run their businesses and better communicate their purchasing needs and expectations to the marketplace. 

What can rotary dial telephones, cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions and door to door milk delivery teach us about the renewable energy revolution? They show us how once commonplace products and services have and will always be replaced by newer ones. It’s not farfetched to say 2014 is to renewable energy what 1955 was to the CRT TV – the golden age of renewable energy is just now upon us.

Many of America’s largest companies are also convinced that a clean energy future is what they want, and they’ve set significant goals to get there. In fact, 43% of Fortune 500 companies have set renewable energy and efficiency targets, and – better still – 60% of the Fortune 100 have set targets.

These corporations are demonstrating real progress toward their goals. For example, Mars, Inc., a food company known for its chocolate products, recently announced that it will build a 200-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lamesa, TX, which, according to Mars, is the largest long-term commitment to renewable energy made by any food manufacturing business in the U.S. We read about other large deals nearly every day.

In the process of switching to renewable energy, companies have gained a great deal of experience. Unfortunately, this transition hasn’t been easy. Utilities have been slow to respond to their major customers’ needs. When the companies bypass their utilities to purchase renewable energy elsewhere, they are having successes, but face complex deals and financing arrangements making it hard to buy renewables at the scale they need.

What do the companies want? The companies want utilities, utility regulators, and providers of renewable energy to understand that they have large demand for clean renewable energy. The system that exists now makes it difficult to meet their goals. But companies are willing, and in many cases would prefer to work with all these key players to make renewable energy available more quickly.

Wind Energy stock photo

In every other aspect of their business, companies are used to a competitive market for the commodities they buy. The best quality goods at the most favorable terms win the contract. However, where energy is concerned -- and particularly renewable energy -- companies have far fewer choices. In many markets, companies have no choice at all. In others, choices are extremely limited or require a price premium over fossil-fuel produced energy, in quantities too small to meet the company needs, and subject to ongoing price volatility. All in all, this hinders companies’ ability to meet their renewable energy targets and discourages the setting of more ambitious targets. We should be rewarding these corporate leaders trying to do the right thing with their energy use, not slowing them down.

On the upside, there is a huge opportunity available to utilities and renewable energy providers who can bring companies what they need. The companies that have signed onto the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles alone account for 8.4 million megawatt hours of demand per year, enough electricity to power nearly 800,000 homes each of the next few years. Many of these companies would prefer to meet this need by purchasing renewable electricity through their local utility companies, but if utility companies are unable to provide it, they are -- and will -- continue to go elsewhere.

A more robust, open renewable energy market with innovative tariffs would create the competition needed to encourage other companies to set and meet aggressive renewable targets, something that would literally benefit the entire planet. If that sounds like a good idea to you, we welcome more companies to sign onto the Corporate Renewable Energy Buyers’ Principles.

Intrigued? Shoot me an email and we’ll talk about meeting your company’s renewable energy targets. For utility regulators, it’s time to find out what your customers want and find a way to meet that need. If you don’t, someone else will.

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Heritage

6 Ways to See the World’s Largest Retailer in the World’s Largest Museum

The beginning of July is always a great time to reflect back on Walmart history. After all, it was July 2, 1962, when Sam Walton opened his very first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Arkansas.

This year, the Smithsonian has a special birthday present for Walmart: Inclusion in the American Enterprise exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Open July 1, the exhibition “chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business – and American life.”    

The exhibition is an 8,000-square-foot space “focused on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.”  So if you’re heading to our nation’s capital this summer, take a look at where our country’s curators see Walmart’s place in American history.

Photo of the entrance to the Smithsonian Exhibition featuring Sam Walton and Walmart

Before you visit, here are a few things to know:

1.     Sam’s Walton’s Cap
This iconic piece of headgear is now on display in the Smithsonian. According to Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator, Division of Work and Industry, if an artifact is in the Smithsonian archives, it’s officially in America’s collective memory. Of the more than 3 million artifacts in the archives, only about 1% are ever on display at one time. Sam’s cap is part of that 1%.

One other identical cap that’s been confirmed to have been worn by Sam in his final days is located in his office, on display at The Walmart Museum. Rob Walton donned it at Walmart’s shareholders meeting last month.

2.     Photo of Sam
The photo of Sam Walton that accompanies the display of Sam’s trucker ball cap is one that had been selected by associates in a Walmart World poll to be their favorite. While in the photo he’s not wearing the hat that’s on display, it was selected because of the disarming warmth the photo exudes.

Photo of Sam Walton on display at Smithsonian Exhibit

3.     Rosalind Brewer, “Game Changer”
Also part of the American Enterprise exhibit is a video of Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer. In this particular display, visitors select from a gallery of business leaders that the Smithsonian’s curators deem “Game Changers.” For good reason, Roz Brewer is included in the gallery, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the world’s most influential businesspersons.

Ros Brewer image featured at Smithsonian exhibit

4.     Valeda Snyder
Walmart’s very first 50-year associate is featured in a timeline along with other retail and industry employees out there on the front lines. Sadly, Valeda passed away in 2012 in her hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, before her inclusion in the Smithsonian.

Former CEO Mike Duke on stage with 50-year associate Valeda Snyder

5.     Save money. Live better.
In its section on marketing and advertising, the American Enterprise exhibit includes the best-known and most important taglines and slogans in the history of the industry. Of all of them, SMLB stands out because of its simplicity and its origin: Sam Walton.

"Save Money. Live Better" slogan on display at the Smithsonian

6.     Walmart Organic Produce
In the “Green Business” section of the exhibit, a colorful and vibrant photo of organic produce is on display as part of the story of the greening of American grocery.

Photo of Walmart Organic Produce at Smithsonian Exhibit

Can’t make it this summer? No worries. American Enterprise is a permanent exhibition set to be open to the public for at least the next 20 years.     

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Sustainability

Helping Customers Know More About How Food is Raised

At Walmart, we view food sustainability as a commitment to help the world feed a quickly-growing population through the four-pillar approach of making food more affordable, more accessible, healthier, and more safe and transparent.

The “safe and transparent” component involves promoting human rights and animal welfare among suppliers and across food chains. It means putting customers in charge of their food choices, and ensuring they have clear, accurate information about food ingredients and production methods.

Our customers have told us that they want to know more about where their food comes from, and how it was sourced. Today, we are announcing updated positions regarding animal welfare and the responsible use of antibiotics in farm animals. You can view them here.

We view these positions as a positive step forward for our company, and for the food industry overall. Yet it is ultimately our suppliers who are leading on safety and transparency. As a retailer that sells products but does not produce them, we can use our strengths to influence change across our supply chain. The most impactful change, however, happens through partnerships.

Sustainability is an ongoing journey for our company, and full food transparency will not happen overnight. It will come through long-term innovation, hard work, and partnership.

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U.S. Manufacturing

With This Ring, We Grew Our Business

Just one year ago, having all hands on deck for us meant 12 employees. But between then and now, something exciting gave our jewelry manufacturing work a boost.

Today, we often find ourselves bringing on 10 to 15 additional temporary employees just to keep pace with demand. We’re working through details to build a new, larger facility near Salt Lake City, because we're bursting at the seams working to fill orders. By the end of this year alone, we’ll be hiring up to 35 new full-time employees.

A close up image of a hand wearing the Luxurien camo ring

Luxurien has long been recognized as one of the premier suppliers of contemporary metal wedding bands in the U.S. But a few years back, we recognized a growing demand for something unique: high-quality jewelry with camouflage inlays, so we committed to filling that gap. We signed license agreements with Mossy Oak & Realtree, two of the most popular camouflage brands in the world, and began to make and distribute camouflage rings.

While that set the stage for bigger and better things, the real game-changing moment was set in motion when Walmart began promoting its 2014 Open Call for products that support American jobs. Luxurien was one of very few jewelry manufacturers based right here in the U.S. – and we knew we had something to offer. So we submitted our application to see if they’d meet with us, and it's been nothing short of a snowball effect ever since.

We found ourselves face-to-face with Walmart buyers, pitching our contemporary metal bands, camouflage rings and exotic wood jewelry. Within weeks, we were on our way to San Bruno, Calif., where Walmart.com committed to selling about 150 of our products online. The response from customers has been so positive that our online deal with Walmart recently expanded to include the sale of our rings in more than 600 of its U.S. stores.

A woman smiles big behind a table filled with shipping papers for Luxurien wedding bands

It’s a pretty big undertaking – particularly for a small business like ours. But the way Walmart committed to walking side-by-side with us from day one has been just as valuable as the orders it has placed. The buyers have been there to make suggestions and inject ideas. We’ve added efficiencies that simply weren’t there before, our margins have gone up considerably, and we’ve been able to raise wages for our employees. All this has, without a doubt, contributed to making us a stronger company for the long term.

This was undoubtedly what Walmart had in mind when, in January 2013, it pledged to purchase an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs over 10 years. And Luxurien is proud to be part of this growing success story. 

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Community

Helping Women Find Their Strong Suits Through Dress for Success

On New Year’s Eve 2014, Samantha pulled into a hotel in Northwest Arkansas, leaving an abusive relationship and destructive lifestyle behind in Texas.

Alone in a new state, with just her daughter, Samantha had no real plan in place, but she did have a goal: building a better life for herself. Two weeks after arriving and still seeking a job, Samantha heard about Dress for Success, a global nonprofit organization that provides professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help disadvantaged women thrive in work and in life.

In 2012, knowing that the local poverty rate was nearly 19% and the unemployment rate was 5.7%, several Walmart home office associates strongly believed that Northwest Arkansas was an important location for the organization's first affiliate in the state. Now nearly three years old, the mission for Dress for Success Northwest Arkansas remains the same: to help women like Samantha find financial independence as they work their way out of negative situations.

Dress For Success Volunteer Helping Client

Marie Paterson, a Walmart human resources associate who is a key leader with Dress for Success Northwest Arkansas, told me, “Volunteering with a local affiliate is especially meaningful because we’re making a difference right here. Our clients are becoming confident and equipped to raise not only their standard of living but also their families’, and they are becoming role models for their children, their friends and communities.”

When Samantha left Texas, friends and family weren’t the only things she left behind. She left behind the clothes and possessions that would present her as professional and hirable in interviews that another local agency had helped her find. Beyond that, she had no idea what to expect from Dress for Success.

Woman Standing at Desk Looking Through Papers

“The actual experience at Dress for Success was so much more powerful than I could have expected,” Samantha said. “Not only did they provide me with one-on-one attention for my suiting, but they did a mock interview and gave me feedback on areas to improve.” Later, Samantha said, she felt prepared and confident enough to ace her interview for her dream job: becoming a key member of the team at a local car dealership.

Now in a much healthier situation, Samantha is looking to the future and wants to be a “giant success” in the auto industry. She is actively looking for ways to reach out to women in situations similar to the one she left in Texas to show them that anything is possible. 

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