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Walmart SVP: Collaboration key to sustainable food

Walmart SVP: Collaboration key to sustainable food

As Wal-Mart Stores revealed big plans to accelerate its efforts around food sustainability, it didn’t do so alone.

Food manufacturers and growers, government agencies and other stakeholders are key partners in the retailer’s food sustainability programs, Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart’s SVP of sustainability, said in an interview with SN following the company’s Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting Monday in Bentonville, Ark.

“What I’m excited about is a real commitment and energy from multiple leaders in the food system that we need to go faster,” McLaughlin said. “This is not just a Walmart thing. We’re happy to play a role, but it’s the suppliers, the environmental agencies like the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Defense Fund; bilateral aid agencies like USAID; domestic agencies like the USDA; and even customers, farmers and growers in this together. Everybody is playing a role.”

McLaughlin said Walmart was moving to improve sustainability so as to protect resources of what’s become the retailer’s largest category. The moves also speak to new expectations of food from Walmart customers, according to a blog post by Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO.

“YOU — our customer — have told us that in 2014 and beyond, you expect more than just quality food at low prices. You also want to know where your food came from, how it was produced, and what it contains,” McMillon wrote. “You expect more convenient access to affordable, healthier choices. And you expect us to use our strengths to help create a more sustainable food system for the environment and for people.”

Walmart’s sustianability will encompass efforts to use its influence to help suppliers and growers reduce their costs and decrease the environmental impact of agriculture; make healthy eating easier and more accessible; and to improve transparency as to food origins and safety.

Partners in the effort including brands like Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola, and agriculture businesses like Monsanto, applauded the effort:

Walmart in the meantime has begun a campaign highlighting some of its famer-suppliers, including this grape grower:

“We really invite the whole industry to partner in this effort – and that means other retailers, too,” McLaughlin added. “We have had some nice collaboration with Target and some others through the Sustainability Consortium. This can’t just be a Walmart thing —it has to be the whole food system. It’s a call to action for everybody.”

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