Retail chain and its suppliers make sustainability a focus

Firms such as Maple Leaf Foods, Unilever Canada and Agropure join Walmart Canada’s Project Gigaton, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the supply chain

Walmart Canada is joining an initiative to reduce emissions from its global supply chains.

“I’m very pleased to announce that externally we’re going to be launching Project Gigaton in Canada, which is a big deal for us,” Walmart Canada president Lee Tappenden said April 10.

The kick-off coincided with Walmart’s annual Sustainability Milestone Summit in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Project Gigaton was first started by Walmart in the United States in 2017 to lower emissions by a gigaton, or one billion tonnes by 2030.

The U.S.-based company announced more than 1,000 suppliers from 40 countries have signed on to the project and suppliers have reported reducing more than 93 million tonnes of emissions toward the one gigaton target in the first two years of the program.

Tappenden said removing one gigaton of emissions from global value chains is equivalent to the reduction of the emissions from 211 million average passenger vehicles in a year, which is more than five times the total number of registered vehicles in Canada in 2017.

Walmart Canada’s sustainability priorities include:

  • Achieving zero food waste across its operations by 2025.
  • Diverting 87 percent of its waste from landfill.
  • Reducing plastic waste in its operations.
  • Powering its private transportation fleet using 100 percent alternative power resources by 2028.
  • Using LED lights inside all its store locations, reducing GHG emissions by about 27,895 tonnes.

Tappenden said more than 200 of its suppliers have already committed to the project with emissions-reduction programs, which includes Maple Leaf Foods, Unilever Canada and Agropur.

Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer of Maple Leaf Foods, who also took part in the announcement, said the Maple Leaf company vision is to be the most sustainable protein company on earth.

A supplier since 1994, Maple Leaf has partnered with Walmart on several strategic initiatives and sees the newest initiative as important and essential to building consumer trust.

“Through our collaboration, it has become clear that Walmart and Maple Leaf share a sense of urgency combatting climate and environmental change and the footprint that we have on this planet,” he said.

Sylvain Charlebois said he is not surprised that more companies realize they can make money by making food systems more efficient.

He said climate change is the catalyst that is bringing companies together because they realize it’s something that no one can individually resolve.

“It’s basically corporate and social responsibility 2.0. Before, you saw a lot of companies just looking at issues to check boxes. Now if they actually do want to make a difference, they are realizing they can’t do everything on their own,” he said.

However, he is not convinced that sustainability initiatives by companies necessarily translate into building consumer trust.

“Consumer trust means a whole lot of things. It’s great to actually earn trust but are consumers actually going to listen and give some attention to what the company’s actually trying to accomplish,” he said.

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