Walmart takes the lead on energy management

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Walmart is working hard to reduce emissions across its business. Last November, the company set ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets that are in line with what climate science says is necessary to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius.

As part of its emissions-reduction plan, Walmart will use a combination of energy-efficiency measures, together with a commitment to source half of the company's energy needs from renewable sources, to achieve an 18% emissions reduction in its own operations by 2025. Additionally, the retail giant will work with suppliers to reduce emissions by 1 Gigaton by 2030, equivalent to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off of US roads and highways for a year.

In a recent interview with Energy Manager Today, Walmart's director of energy and operations sustainability, Joby Carlson, discussed how the company approaches energy management initiatives while seeing a positive return.

"We try not to do anything that doesn't have a good financial return," Carlson said. "Sustainability has to hit the balance among the economics, the environmental, and the social side. Energy efficiency has been our bread and butter. We are a low-cost retailer so we are sensitive about the cost of operations. Optimising and reducing our energy demand has translated into millions and millions [in savings]."

Asked about the challenges involved in pursuing sustainability targets, Carlson said: "We had a goal in 2005 to reduce our carbon footprint of existing buildings 20% by 2012. We accomplished that, but it's hard to show because we also grew the company by almost 50% during that time -- and that overshadowed the reduction we were getting from existing buildings. Reducing the total emissions while you're trying to grow means you have to do twice as much."

He elaborated: "While we are investing in energy efficiency that has a good payback, we have to think about upgrading our data systems, expanding our trucking fleet, remodelling or building new stores. The push and pull between business growth and spending money on improving the efficiency of existing assets is a challenge."

Balancing those priorities, Walmart tries to focus on locations that have the highest cost of energy, but also areas that have the most emissions.

Looking ahead, Carlson said: "I think you'll see companies that have led on climate and energy topics continue to do that. It doesn't seem like it will get easier, but people will still hold to their original aspirations on global issues. That's what we're seeing in the industry."




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