Walmart Links Up With H&M and Others on Emissions Quest

Walmart is continuing to emphasize its climate change campaigns. 

The retailer on Wednesday unveiled a project aimed at cutting emissions, which it said it is working on in tandem with a United Nations group, a global business organization, and other major retailers including H&M, Ikea and Kingfisher plc. 

Walmart and the retailers are undertaking the program in a tie-up with the U.N. group COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions, as well as the business organization the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.  

The initiative, billed the “Race to Zero Breakthroughs,” aims to cut emissions to curb the rise of global temperatures to within 1.5 degrees, according to the groups.  

“The imperative to take action to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius has never been higher,” the U.N. Climate Champions group said in a statement Wednesday. “Despite bold actions from some leading retail brands, a decarbonization pathway for the sector is notably absent, with only 5 percent of retail businesses — by total global industry revenues — having committed to taking action to limit global warming in accordance with the Paris Agreement goals.” 

In recent public appearances, Walmart Inc. chief executive officer Doug McMillon has talked up the retailer’s own goals of achieving zero emissions across its operations by 2040. 

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The retailer has previously emphasized its efforts to target its supply chains, and to nudge suppliers toward reporting their own lowered emissions. In its Project Gigaton campaign, Walmart has outlined a goal of avoiding some 1 billion metric tons of emissions by 2030, and has said that its suppliers have so far reported a “cumulative 375 million metric tons of avoided emissions.” More than 2,300 suppliers have joined the effort since it began in 2017, according to Walmart’s website. 

“We believe it’s important to push toward zero in our own operations, even where it’s difficult and may not be feasible with current technology,” McMillon previously told analysts on a call this year. “Our push will help drive necessary innovation. We’ll lead where we can and help make possible what’s not currently possible. Climate change remains at the forefront of our ambitions on regeneration.” 

Walmart has outlined goals to use renewable power for half of its operations by 2025, and to cut its emissions by roughly 18 percent by that timeline, according to its 2020 Environmental, Social & Governance Report.  

As the retailer continues to build out its apparel and general merchandise business, it has publicized climate pledges acknowledging that expansion, saying that by 2022, Walmart’s U.S. stores “will endeavor to” work only with suppliers and mills using the Higg Index, an evaluation system by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

“This campaign is a call to retailers everywhere to take ambitious climate action as they increasingly recognize the risks posed by climate change across their supply chains and operations,” Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, said in a statement on the “Race to Zero” initiative. 

“We need more retailers to join the [U.N. Climate Champions’] Race to Zero and showcase leadership and commitment, like H&M Group, Ingka Group (Ikea), Kingfisher and Walmart,” he said.

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