As part of its commitment to sourcing 20 key commodities more sustainably by 2025, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, operator of Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club stores, announced a new set of aspirations to help the company meet its goal of sourcing beef products more sustainably.
“As the needs of the world have shifted, we are furthering our original goal while staying true to one of our earliest sustainability commitments — to sell more sustainable products while maintaining the low prices customers expect,” wrote David Baskin, Merchandising Vice President Meat, Walmart U.S., and Kyle Kinnard, Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager of Meat and Seafood, Sam's Club, in a blog post on Friday.
“Beef is one of these commodities. As the world population continues to grow, so does the global demand for protein, which brings a unique set of sustainability challenges and opportunities,” the blog continued. “Livestock grazing and beef production in the U.S. can be part of a resilient, sustainable food system. Grazing lands cover about 40% of the United States. This includes iconic ecosystems and important wildlife.”
In its announcement, Walmart acknowledged the important role of the nation’s farmers and ranchers in keeping well-managed grazing lands that can help secure clean water, enhance habitat, sustain rural communities and store additional carbon in the soil, which helps mitigate emissions.
“Farmers and ranchers are the stewards of these lands, and as an industry, we need to support ongoing and increased efforts to maximize the positive effects of cattle production,” said Baskin and Kinnard in their blog. “We’ve learned a lot from farmers and ranchers who understand the importance of soil health and grazing to carbon sequestration and have vested interest in ensuring they protect their land for generations to come.” (Check out the video below on the sustainability and health of America’s grazing lands.)
Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Club U.S. announced the following aspirations that will further their work and ultimately bring the companies closer to meeting their 2025 objectives in sustainable beef sourcing:
• Sustainably raised: driving soil health and animal welfare.
Walmart aspires to source its fresh beef products more sustainably by 2025, including prioritizing soil health, animal welfare and responsible use of antibiotics. The retailer will continue working with suppliers to improve grain sourcing and grazing management practices across a total of 12 million acres (or more than 9 million football fields), while upholding its suppliers to the “Five Freedoms” for animal welfare. Walmart expects its suppliers will not tolerate animal abuse of any kind and support its position on the judicious use of antibiotics in farm animals.
• The need for greater transparency and partnership.
Walmart’s new aspirations also include encouraging its suppliers to continuously improve their efforts in understanding the entire beef production cycle, from farm to fork. Using a science-driven process, Walmart worked with The Nature Conservancy to identify opportunities and strategies to improve sustainability efforts throughout its supply chain, which can ultimately lead to improved soil health and decreased greenhouse gas emissions.
With this in place, Walmart aspires to source from fresh beef suppliers who have a tech-enabled supply chain to measure sustainability impact at scale. The infusion of modern technology may help beef suppliers measure the benefits of grazing and grain best practices, adaptively manage and offer a more accurate way to trace impact. It can also help support beef suppliers’ efforts to better understand the environmental footprint of their supply chains, for instance using geographic and greenhouse gas indicators.
To measure, track and understand which efforts are most successful, so Walmart can better share learnings across the sector, the company is also asking its suppliers to participate in annual reporting initiatives like Walmart’s Project Gigaton initiative and THESIS performance assessments.
• Collaboration is key.
Supporting farmers and ranchers in their efforts to improve and continuing to drive meaningful, lasting change across the beef supply chain calls for collaboration. While Walmart works with individuals and small groups of stakeholders, the company is also partnering in key collective action initiatives, such as the U.S. Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Midwest Row Crop Collaborative and Field to Market.
“These efforts help the industry come together to share and align on best practices, course correct where needed and continue to evolve the industry to meet goals for suppliers and the environment,” wrote Baskin and Kinnard. “Overall, we see an opportunity for a whole-system transformation and continued progress across the beef supply chain. That is why we focus on sustainability in our sourcing decisions and work to drive action in policy, advocacy and philanthropy both globally and domestically.”