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.

Be the first to comment on this article


Sam’s Club Says ‘YEA!’ to Novel Ideas

Shreyas Parab, CEO of NovelTie, is a licensed small business owner from the suburbs of Philadelphia who is working hard to grow his novelty necktie company. He started NovelTie to “turn the occasion of having to wear a tie to the event where you get to wear your NovelTie.”

Eight months into his business, Shreyas has revenues of $3,500 and expanded his team of one to nine salespersons in two states.

Very impressive for a 14 year old. Yes, Shreyas Parab is 14 and balances his CEO demands with homework as a full-time 10th grader at Archmere Academy, where he is required to wear a uniform. Thanks to an after-school program called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), Shreyas wrote a real business plan, launched NovelTie and found investors in just 30 weeks.

His ties are meant “for teens by teens” – his best sellers, for example, are titled “stud muffin” and “chick magnet” – and his salesmen are students at neighboring schools with similar dress codes. Soon, he’ll also have an even bigger audience: NovelTies will be available to members in his local Sam’s Club through our ShowCase Events program, a limited-time merchandising opportunity for small or new business suppliers.

As a finalist at the June 2015 YEA! national competition,  Shreyas recently joined five YEA! scholars at Sam’s Club’s corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to pitch his business to buyers, participate in supplier workshops, visit with CEO Rosalind Brewer and experience the Walmart culture. In preparation for the trip, Shreyas did his homework: he read Made in America, Sam Walton’s autobiography. “I learned from the book ... that no matter where I was or what I was doing, I need to stay true to my intentions and who I am,” Shreyas wrote in a letter to Sam’s Club executives. “Even as Mr. Walton got older, he never forgot the values that he had grown up with and held true to his heart.”

33 years ago, “Mr. Walton” founded Sam’s Club to help small business owners save money, and today we continue working to help entrepreneurs of every age realize the American dream. Our club associates met thousands of YEA! scholars in more than 100 communities this year as they served as lead judges at local YEA! business pitch competitions. Sam’s Club also contributed startup funds to expand YEA! to 13 new communities in collaboration with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

You or a teen you know could launch the next NovelTie or even the next Walmart: YEA! classes start this fall. To find a YEA! chapter near you, visit

Be the first to comment on this article


The Makeup of Makeup and More: Improving Ingredient Transparency

Imagine you’re standing in a store aisle looking for a new brand of lotion that won’t irritate your baby’s skin. You find yourself surveying at least a dozen different lotion labels trying to understand and compare product ingredients. The process is frustrating, slow, and confusing – what are some of these things even used for?

You are not alone. A lack of product ingredient information is a very common problem. Fortunately, the situation is improving. In the past few years, more and more companies have taken action to make product information more transparent to consumers, including the sharing of ingredients online. Walmart is one of these companies.  

As outlined in its Sustainable Chemistry Policy, Walmart has started an effort to list the ingredients contained within its private label consumable products – personal care and household products that you use up, such as aftershave, baby lotions, cleaners, or pet shampoo – on Walmart’s policy also asks national brand suppliers, like Procter and Gamble, Revlon and Pro-Sense, to follow this lead and include product ingredient information on their own websites.

Sharing lists of ingredients on Walmart’s website is a positive development for customers. Greater online access to this information makes it easier to find out what’s in products and to compare ingredients across products so that customers can ultimately make more informed purchasing decisions. For an example, consider cleaning products.  If you’ve ever tried to figure out what’s inside a cleaning product while shopping, you know it can be difficult – for the most part, ingredients are not required to be disclosed on the packaging of cleaning products.

Today, you can find on a list of ingredients for most private label products covered by the policy.  See for example, “ingredients” listed under “about this item” for a bottle of Equate body wash. According to Walmart’s implementation guide, product ingredients are to be listed in descending order of concentration using a standard naming convention called INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). This standard is already in use by many product manufacturers and helps create consistency that is designed to allow for easier identification and comparison of ingredients across products. Walmart’s policy is being implemented in steps, so not all of Walmart’s product listings disclose ingredients as outlined in the policy and implementation guide.  Walmart continues to build and improve upon this important first step.  

We’re encouraged to see that product ingredient transparency is becoming more standard practice in the marketplace. We’re especially pleased with companies like Clorox and Seventh Generation that have taken leadership steps on ingredient disclosure by providing ingredient information in multiple languages and identifying an ingredient’s function, or purpose, in a product. This is good news for the growing number of consumers interested in making informed decisions about the products we buy and use every day.

But the benefits of ingredient disclosure may well extend far beyond our everyday shopping trips. Businesses that commit to consumers on ingredient disclosure provide valuable information that can ultimately help drive safer chemicals into the marketplace.

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a senior scientist, and Alissa Sasso is a research consultant. Both contributors work for the Environmental Defense Fund.    

Be the first to comment on this article


Georgia Governor on ‘The Silicon Valley of the South’

As Walmart opens a new e-commerce fulfillment center in Atlanta, we caught up with Georgia Governor Nathan Deal for a quick chat about his home state – and its growing reputation as a tech incubator.

WMT: What is the most exciting thing about being governor of Georgia?

Deal: Our economy is seeing positive growth with thousands of new jobs added every month. We’re seeing the telltale signs of cranes and bulldozers humming on newly cleared land. We’re seeing home values recover and Georgia families rebuild their savings. In fact, since the start of my first term in 2011, we’ve helped create more than 400,000 private sector jobs. Companies representing a wide variety of industries continue to expand and relocate here. This growth strengthens local communities and our state as a whole.

WMT: What, if anything, can the public and private sectors teach each other about innovation?

Deal: Early in 2011, we put in place what we call the Competitiveness Initiative, a joint effort with leaders from government, universities and technical colleges and the private sector. The initiative examined six key factors identified by site selectors as the most important influencers in corporate location and expansion decisions:

  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation
  • Education and workforce development
  • Friendly business climate 
  • Global commerce
  • Government efficiency

Based on the recommendations from public and private stakeholders, we’ve been able to implement several positive policy changes and programs. This innovation and collaboration has served — and will continue to serve — Georgians well.  

WMT: What does the Walmart e-commerce fulfillment center opening mean for Atlanta’s identity as a burgeoning tech hub?

Deal: Georgia has experienced rapid growth in the tech sector in the past several years. In fact, Atlanta has been dubbed the “Silicon Valley of the South” due to our growing reputation as a technology hub. With the addition of Walmart’s fulfillment center, Georgia continues to cement its reputation as a tech incubator and innovator. These well-paying, high skills jobs are indeed the jobs of the future. We know that between now and the year 2020, STEM field occupations will introduce more than 79,000 new jobs to Georgia. In response, we’ve made significant investments and policy changes in order to prepare our students and workforce for these future jobs. I’m excited that Walmart has chosen to bring these cutting-edge jobs to Georgia, and I look forward to its continued growth in this industry. 

Be the first to comment on this article


Why This Tiny Chip Has Huge Security Benefits

If you’ve received any new credit cards in the last year or so, take a close look: There may be a microchip right above the card number. While that tiny chip can be easy to miss, soon it won’t be – starting this week, many retailers are using it to make a small change in your checkout process.

Because this tiny chip offers much greater security benefits versus traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology, on Oct. 1 many retailers, including Walmart, will begin prompting customers not to swipe, but to “dip” – aka insert and briefly leave the card in the payment terminal. 

Here’s how it works:

A GIF of a Credit Card being swiped in a credit card machine at cash wrap

Using a chip card to pay means the chip assigns a dynamic code that changes each time consumers use the card. Even if the code were obtained, it could not be used to make an additional purchase.  So when considering the risk of counterfeit, a chip is much more difficult to duplicate. 

So why the significance of Oct. 1? That’s the date set by Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover for the liability of credit card fraud to shift from credit card issuers to retailers. Merchants that haven’t changed their terminals to read chips could be responsible for fraud.

Walmart has long been pushing toward payments that give our customers more security than the traditional signature-based, magnetic stripe technology. In fact, here’s something else you may not know:  We began installing hardware that had the capability of accepting microchip cards more than nine years ago, and we activated the functionality on Nov. 1, 2014. Additionally, in 2014, both Walmart and Sam’s Club issued chip-enabled MasterCard cards to our branded cardholders. 

While the cards are changing, you will still have the quick, simple checkout experience you're accustomed to at Walmart and Sam’s Club. If you don’t have a microchip card, you can continue using your magnetic stripe card at Walmart and Sam’s Club just the same. In fact, when it comes to debit cards, many banks have not issued chip-enabled cards anyway: Only 25% of debit cards will be transferred to the new system by the end of 2015, according to a recent study by Pulse, a PIN debit network.

Walmart was among the first retailers to implement chip technology to better secure payments for credit card holders, and now, we’re finally starting to see this shift take place.

For additional resources regarding chip-enabled payments, visit the news section of our website.

1 Comment