There are multiple layers of good news in Walmart’s announcement today that it’s targeting zero emissions across all of its operations by the year 2040.
First, on its face, it’s good news when the world’s largest retailer decides to do something beneficial for the planet (though one could argue the actual the “good” here doesn’t balance out the company’s main business of selling us more stuff). According to today’s press announcement, Walmart says it will:
- Convert to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 through a mix of wind, solar and other energy sources
- Electrify and zero out emissions from all of its vehicles including long-haul trucks by 2040
- Shift to “low-impact” refrigerants for cooling and electrify the climate control of its stores, clubs, warehouses and data centers by 2040
As part of today’s announcement, Walmart also said that it will “manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.” The company also pledged to drive the adoption of regenerative agriculture practices and management of sustainable fisheries.
This is not the first eco-initiative from Walmart, a company that has a complex history of “greening,” as this paper published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review back in 2008 points out. But Walmart’s current renewable efforts are coming at a time when the company is possibly changing its relationship with consumers. The pandemic has spurred people towards new heights of online shopping, and Walmart recently launched its Walmart+ subscription service, which offers free same-day delivery of groceries as a perk.
Online commerce and increased need for delivery changes how Walmart will move goods around. Instead of just going from distribution centers to stores, it will be driving more goods around directly to people’s doors across the country. More deliveries means more trucks on the roads (or drones in the sky), more often, which means that actually, that electrified vehicle fleet should probably come sooner than 2040.
But the year 2040 is actually the other layer of good news from Walmart’s announcement. At least the company thinks there will still be a planet to sell goods on by then.