Sustainability

The Power of Collaboration for Supply Chain Sustainability

Did you know that The Campbell Soup Company has installed a 60 acre, 10-megawatt (MW) solar panel project to run the largest soup plant in the world? The system comprises more than 24,000 solar panels mounted on mechanisms that track the sun each day from east to west and efficiently positions each panel at the optimum angle for maximum electricity generation. Since 2011, these panels have been producing about 15% of the total electricity for the company’s Napoleon, Ohio, manufacturing facility.

Campbell’s solar panel project is part of a much larger trend currently seen in companies of all shapes, sizes, and sectors. Companies are increasingly realizing that energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions management is good for business— and it doesn’t stop with products. Most of the biggest changes that companies can make are behind the scenes, from installing motion sensors on light fixtures to changing out boilers to retrofitting truck fleets. Although you can’t see the solar power in your favorite can of soup, Campbell’s commitments to sustainability benefit the triple bottom line – people, planet, profit – and mean better products for everyone.

Working with Campbell’s on sustainability initiatives helps achieve Walmart’s goal “to sell products that sustain people and the environment.” Currently, Walmart is collaborating with suppliers to collectively reduce 20 million metric tons of GHG from its supply chain by the end of 2015. To accomplish this, Walmart has partnered with CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project), an international, non-profit organization that provides the only global system for companies to manage and share vital environmental information. CDP works with market forces, including 767 institutional investors with assets of $92 trillion, to motivate companies to disclose their impacts on the environment and natural resources and take action to reduce them by putting these insights at the heart of strategic business, investment and policy decisions.

As a leading member of CDP’s supply chain program, Walmart is learning how its suppliers are achieving real emissions reductions— and in doing so, driving thousands of companies to realize significant GHG emissions and bottom-line savings. Through CDP’s standardized disclosure platform, suppliers are accounting for their carbon footprint, setting strategies for climate resiliency, and reporting detailed energy efficiency improvements from the operational level down to the product level. Collaborative action works: CDP’s Global Supply Chain Report 2014, Collaborative Action on Climate Risk shows that companies that engage with two or more vendors, customers or other partners through CDP are more than twice as likely to both actively reduce GHG emissions and realize a financial return from their emissions reduction investments.

Campbell’s reports to CDP that “Walmart has challenged Campbell to be better stewards of carbon reduction.” Clothing maker HanesBrands agrees, stating that “executive level awareness and support for sustainability along with customer commitment, including the leadership of Walmart, are promoting continual improvements in cost reduction and initiatives leading to GHG reductions.” Even companies you might not have heard of are making real commitments to reduce their energy costs and associated GHG emissions. Utah-based Olson’s Greenhouse Gardens, which supplies poinsettias and other plants for Walmart’s garden centers, reports that "Walmart has driven our efforts to become sustainable and has made us aware of many areas where we can make a difference.  Walmart's interests in reducing their own carbon footprint have pushed our company to consider all initiatives in order to be a more responsible supplier."

Walmart’s leadership is also helping to pilot CDP’s new Action Exchange program. Participating suppliers are encouraged to invest in energy efficiency technologies by helping them identify the most cost-efficient solutions, thereby saving money for themselves, Walmart, and customers around the world. The challenge is enormous, but as Walmart explains in the CDP Global Supply Chain Report Launch 2014 video, “Addressing our carbon footprint is no small feat, but with aggressive targets to reduce emissions, the hard work and creativity of our great associates, and the infrastructure provided by CDP, it’s not an impossible one.”

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U.S. Manufacturing

A Fond Farewell to an American Craftsman

After nearly half a century of making pacifiers and sippy cups, Dick Gates is stepping away this year.

At NUK headquarters in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, Dick Gates has been an integral part of designing and manufacturing baby products since 1970, when he started as a stock handler, and in just a few years, became the youngest supervisor in the company’s history.

He loved being part of a process that guaranteed quality and safety for the mothers and children all over the country, and especially in his own back yard.

“I go to church every Sunday and see my product being used,” he said, proudly.

Understanding the value of what his company was making, Dick dedicated himself to learning the nuts and bolts of the process, going to engineering school and taking night classes until his qualifications allowed him to join the engineering and product development team. He went on to develop the mechanisms that are still being used at NUK right now. Producing thousands of baby products every day, many of which are shipped immediately to Walmart.

With NUK’s dedication to keeping local jobs, and Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing, Dick gained the peace of mind he had always craved. The assurance that he would always have a job. Knowing he could put down roots in this community, confident that he wouldn’t be pulling his kids out of school and moving to another town.

“Walmart’s not going any place,” he said, “and that gave me an incredible sense of security.”

That feeling of safety allowed Dick to think of NUK headquarters as his second home. And to think of his colleagues as family. 

He enjoys his nine-mile drive every morning, watching the sun come up over the tops of the trees. He’s the first one there every day, so he turns on the lights and starts the coffee pot.

“I’m at work, but I’m at home,” he said.

He says it’s a bittersweet feeling, retiring from the company after 45 wonderful years. But he knows that the products and processes he has developed, as well as the spirit he has invested in this company, will go on for a very long time.

“It’s not just for me.  Not just for my son or my daughter.  It’s for generations to come.”

Dick’s legacy will live on in another very special way. His daughter now works on the assembly line at NUK. The child whose first possession was a NUK baby bottle manufactured by her dad is now carrying on the work of the man who made that bottle with loving care.

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Sustainability

In eCommerce Packaging, Sometimes More Equals Less

About a year ago, Walmart assembled a team from all over the company to focus on ways we could continue improving the online shopping experience. The feedback we received was tremendously helpful, but there was a surprise. An overwhelming majority of customers took it upon themselves to elaborate on an unsolicited topic: The size of our boxes.

Over and over again, our customers expressed a desire for us to reduce our packaging. That’s what they were talking about, so we immediately shifted our focus to follow their lead. And that shift has created the potential for huge results.

In the world of e-commerce, several factors have to be taken into account when reducing packaging. Because these items are being shipped great distances and handled multiple times, we must ensure the proper amount of cushion and protection. Ultimately, it’s about the product arriving at its destination undisturbed.

Through data analysis and extensive testing of potential solutions, we’ve developed a way to improve cardboard box utilization by more than 30%, without sacrificing product protection. If scaled over our entire e-commerce operation in the U.S., this effort has the potential to reduce cardboard box consumption by 7.2 million cubic feet annual, roughly enough to fill 82 Olympic-size swimming pools. It also translates into the ability to pack more products into the tractor-trailers we put on the road.

We took everything from order trends and history, to the size of boxes used at our fulfillment centers, into account. We developed several new box sizes and put them to the test – first with a couple of hundred orders, then with 10,000 orders. Then we piloted the program across an entire fulfillment center and, ultimately, concluded we could maximize efficiency by expanding our assortment of box sizes from 12 to 27.

Soon, we’ll implement the program at a second e-commerce fulfillment center and, eventually, across the organization. But the key to success will be our ability to customize the program to the needs and orders of every facility. In fact, this program will have to be continuously monitored and adjusted to meet changing needs. What is achievable at one facility with an assortment of 27 boxes may require an assortment of 40 boxes at another. And we’re up to that challenge.

The bottom line is, we recognized an opportunity by listening to our customers, and we acted on it. Great things happen when you take time to listen.

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U.S. Manufacturing

Once Bankrupt, Now Booming: A Small-Town Factory Returns

In 2009, I noticed an odd thing as I stopped to check out a closed-down factory in Wadley, Alabama. The building was clearly vacant, but there were 10-12 people outside mowing and trimming weeds. So I asked them, “Who’s paying you?” “Nobody,” one of them said. “We just love this factory.”

It was clear that this place was once a special part of this town. 

As a manufacturer of patio furniture, I saw this as an opportunity.  Why not use this facility, which had all the equipment — and potential workforce – needed to produce high-quality products? Because the factory was part of a bankruptcy filing, I went before a judge to see about buying it. When I told him my plan to turn the factory into a facility that once again produced American-made products, he slammed his gavel and said, “You got it.”  

Because Walmart’s commitment to U.S. manufacturing allowed for the flexibility of a multi-year deal for Walmart to purchase product from the Wadley facility, we’ve been able to put money into renovations. Currently, we’re spending millions on efficiency upgrades and new equipment.

The factory, which opened in 1963 and was previously owned by another company that produced wrought-iron patio furniture, was the heart of the Wadley community. When you consider that the town’s population is roughly 700, it makes sense that this facility employed a large percentage of its residents. Today, our new patio furniture factory has 200 employees, and I see that number growing by 50-100 in the coming years. That growth can only be a help to the local economy – it’s 200 people who need to eat breakfast and lunch at local restaurants and buy stuff from local merchants on their way home from work.

As part of our reopening of this facility, we’re also able to support educational initiatives in Wadley and throughout Randolph County. Our biggest workforce supplier is a technical school also located in Wadley. We supply the material, and the school trains the welders. We are able to hire skilled workers at various levels, not to mention support these vocation programs for the future. We also house a weekly food bank. We store and supply some of the food and other needs, including allowing space for the distribution of these goods to as many as 100 people per week.

I’m proud to be a part of making a big impact on this small town. 

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U.S. Manufacturing

Walmart’s Investment in U.S. Manufacturing, Explained

With nearly 260 million customers shopping at a Walmart location each week, it’s clear that the ability to get the right items at the right price is a benefit to many of us.

But providing affordable goods isn’t the only way we aim to make an impact. We’re also heavily invested in the communities we serve. One part of that is our commitment to source an additional $250 billion in products made, assembled or grown in the U.S.

Not only does manufacturing products domestically create jobs – in many cases, it’s more efficient. Manufacturing goods closest to the point of sale allows for quicker turnaround time from factory to shelf. It’s good for business, good for customers and good for our stores.

While products are a big part of this commitment, innovation is another key way we can make a difference. Along with the Walmart Foundation and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, we’re awarding grants for research on ways to make manufacturing easier, such as this project from Cornell University that is helping to turn recycled clothes into new ones.

Here’s a quick look at the key points of our pledge.

On June 28, Walmart will host its U.S. Manufacturing Summit and Open Call for products that support American jobs. Learn more about these two events here.

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