What's Bringing President Obama To Walmart?

It’s not the everyday low prices. No, not even professional family photos with Bo and Sunny. It’s about businesses making smart decisions about energy.

Today, the President will visit Mountain View, California’s Walmart to announce big news for solar power and energy efficiency. Walmart is already a commercial leader in solar installations, but is committing to double the number of panels on its store roofs in the next six years, harnessing 7 million GWh of clean energy by 2020. But not just Walmart thinks solar power is great idea. Today the President is announcing 300 private and sector commitments to advance solar deployment, representing 850 MW of electricity, enough to power 130,000 homes. The industry is growing at breakneck speed, and President Obama is directing his Administration to ensure the American workforce can keep up the momentum.

Since Obama took office, the U.S. had just 1.2 GW of solar capacity; today that number stands at a whopping 13 GW. That’s enough to power 2 million American homes. Not to mention, that’s 2 million fewer homes we have to power to polluting coal or natural gas.  The industry boasted more than 140,000 jobs in 2013, a 20% increase since the previous year. So what’s next for solar?

Clean Energy 101: The President will direct the Department of Energy to invest in community colleges in 49 states to prepare 50,000 students to enter the solar industry by 2020. Solar energy- whether its photovoltaic or thermal- is not only complex, but is becoming increasingly specialized as new technologies hit the market. From the 1,700 acre concentrated solar plant (CSP) in California to a 10’ x 10’ pair of photovoltaic panels on a rooftop in New Jersey, the growth of solar in the coming years will demand a diverse, skilled workforce. By developing the Department of Energy’s Solar Instructor Training Network, more Americans will have the exciting opportunity to be a part of the clean energy economy.

Sustainable Housing: The DoE and Department of Housing and Urban Development will partner to advance education in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to bolster energy literacy and employment in low-income communities and public housing projects across the country.

Clarity and Consistency in the Tax Code: The DOE will be releasing an updated and revised Guide to Federal Financing for Clean Energy. This excellent tool assists Americans to identify energy efficiency and renewable financing programs in Federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Treasury and Environmental Protection Agency.

NRDC looks forward to being a part of the solar industry’s rapid growth. Last fall, we launched our Solar Schools program, an innovative way for communities from North Carolina to California to crowdfund solar projects on their local schools. To learn more, read NRDC Director of Renewable Policy Nathanael Greene’s blog on this exciting project. Our affiliate organization, Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), is tracking the growth in the clean energy economy, noting where companies are hiring new workers to help manufacture solar panels and install PV systems on roofs. To see where solar is hiring in your state, please visit Last year, E2 tracked more than 21,600 jobs announcements in solar generation alone!

But wait! Solar is just one of the President's exciting announcements today. Mr. Obama is also setting exciting new energy efficiency standards, that together with other efficiency standards that his administration has issued, will save a whopping 2 billion metric tons of carbon pollution through 2030. To get the inside scoop from an expert, check out my colleague Kit Kennedy's blog on how new efficiency standards will save our economy billions in the coming decade.

Our 100% clean energy future is on the horizon, let’s join our President and support its continued progress.

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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

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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.    

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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. 

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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.

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