Why EDF celebrates Walmart's environmental gains

Tom Murray

Environmental Defense Fund has spent 25 years working to change the way business does business as usual. In a world driven by global commerce, we can’t ignore the environmental footprints of corporations.

EDF’s corporate partnerships challenge companies to see things in new ways and develop solutions that benefit both business and the environment, resulting in scalable environmental impacts across industries and supply chains.

An independent contributor to Grist recently highlighted some numbers in regards to our corporate partnership with Walmart. What the article failed to mention was the numbers we should all care about most, the environmental impact of our work.

 20 million: The amount of metric tons of greenhouse gasses EDF convinced Walmart to publicly commit to cutting from its supply chain.

15 million: The acres of farmland across which EDF and Walmart are targeting to optimize fertilizer practices, which could ultimately avoid 7 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. These initiatives will touch 30 percent of food and beverage sales in North America.

100,000: The number of products screened for hazardous chemicals thanks to a tool EDF helped create that identifies toxic chemicals in products.

Zero: The amount of waste EDF is working with Walmart to achieve by recycling content and looping it back into the supply chain. We’re 81 percent of the way there.

The list goes on. EDF has spent seven years on the ground, working closely with Walmart colleagues to create these significant environmental results. In true EDF fashion, we publicly celebrate our results and share best practices widely to show other companies how to follow in step and ultimately transform industries. The approach works.

We did this when we challenged McDonald’s to avoid 150,000 tons of packaging by trading its foam clamshell boxes for more sustainable paper packaging. Nowadays you’re hard pressed to find any fast food restaurant that doesn’t use paper.

We did this when we teamed with FedEx to develop the first “street-ready” hybrid truck. Today, hybrid trucks are seen in hundreds of corporate fleets from UPS to Coca-Cola to the US Postal Service.

We are equally transparent about our funding policies. Unlike many non-profit organizations, EDF does not take any money from corporations or corporate-run philanthropies with whom we work. We pick corporate partners to achieve environmental results. Period.

Our funding policy allows us to remain a credible, independent third party. While collaboration is our preferred approach, we are still more than willing to protestpressure, and sue companies that aren’t willing to do the right thing or follow the law.

The Walton Family Foundation funds EDF habitat and conservation work in a number of regions around the world as part of a broad portfolio of conservation initiatives (described publicly here). This is a matter of public record, as is the fact that Sam Walton is one of approximately 40 members of the EDF Board of Trustees, all of whom are required to recuse themselves from decisions involving businesses with which they are affiliated. We’re proud to have Sam Walton, a smart, passionate and energetic individual, on our Board.

At the end of the day, our environmental results are the numbers we should focus on. We think it’s safe to say that these results speak for themselves.

(This post first appeared on our EDF+Business blog.)

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