Can retailers drive climate change action?
With the elevated environmental risks posed by this year’s hurricane and wildfire seasons in the U.S. as a backdrop, Walmart, Amazon.com and REI this week launched major climate change initiatives.
On Monday, Walmart announced a goal to target zero emissions across global operations by 2040. Further, the company made a second commitment to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030.
“We want to play an important role in transforming the world’s supply chains to be regenerative,” said CEO Doug McMillon in a statement.
Amazon, which last year committed to zeroing out its carbon footprint by 2040, on Wednesday rolled out a new “Climate Pledge Friendly” label, which highlights items that have been certified as sustainable. A dedicated storefront lets shoppers browse by category or search for products bearing the green label. Amazon also introduced a new certification for products designed to reduce carbon emissions, “Compact by Design.”
“With 18 external certification programs and our own Compact by Design certification, we’re incentivizing selling partners to create sustainable products that help protect the planet for future generations,” said CEO Jeff Bezos in a statement.
On Thursday, REI committed to becoming carbon neutral this year by purchasing carbon credits expected “in the millions” to cover shortfalls. REI further set a goal to reduce emissions in line with the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) findings that global emissions must be reduced by 55 percent by 2030 to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
With REI’s footprint including products sold, vendors will be pushed to further reduce emissions. The company will prioritize reforestation, renewable and clean energy, pursuing recycled and lower impact materials in manufacturing, and eliminating excess packaging as part of its commitment.
In an interview with RetailWire, REI President and CEO Eric Artz said the major difference versus past sustainability efforts is the sequestration holding REI accountable for internal greenhouse gases that he expects will drive innovation in search of solutions. While REI directly benefits from acting green, he believes other retailers gain a positive “ripple effect” from such actions.
Said Mr. Artz, “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s good business.”
- Walmart sets goal to become a regenerative company – Walmart
- Climate Pledge Friendly helps you discover and shop for more sustainable products – Amazon.com
- REI Co-op achieves 14-year carbon neutrality commitment, announces ambitious new climate platform – REI
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How large a role will retailers and the overall consumer products industry likely play in helping to highlight and battle climate change? Are climate commitments for retailers a responsibility, a marketing opportunity or a little bit of both?