Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s senior director of sustainability, Jeffrey Rice, is practical enough to know that sustainability is unsupportable unless it ultimately has a positive impact on the bottom line.
“Sustainability will only be successful if you can figure out how to make it fit within your own corporate mission,” said Rice, the featured speaker at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Business Civic Leadership Center’s Environmental Innovation Network Webinar, on Monday. “If sustainability is seen as a distraction to the way you do business,” it doesn’t stand a chance.
Wal-Mart operates 10,000 units in 28 countries and employs 2.1 million associates worldwide, including 1.4 million in the U.S. “We touch 200 million customers per week around the world,” he said. “We have a big opportunity to influence sustainability. As a close to $500 billion retailer that gets a lot of trust from customers, we have a responsibility to lead on the big issues.
“We approach sustainability globally, for the most part,” Rice added. “We know sustainability needs to make sense in a local context. We give a lot of flexibility to each of our markets to drive sustainability in a way that makes sense for them.”
Rice called Wal-Mart’s productivity loop the retailer’s engine. “‘Buy for Less, Sell for Less, Grow Sales, Operate for Less’ — this is the mantra we use to say, ‘This is how we do what we do.’ It achieves Every Day Low Price and achieves Every Day Low Cost. In each of these areas, sustainability plays an important role in long- and short-term goals,” he said.
Rice is too pragmatic to believe that Wal-Mart customers will ever pay more for sustainable products. “Our customers care, but they don’t want to pay more for products or be confused by a lot of information while shopping,” said Rice. “Most of our customers wouldn’t take the time to look through an iPhone or read a label. They care about the health and safety of people in the supply chain.
“Customers shouldn’t have to choose between products they can afford and products that are good for the environment,” Rice said, quoting Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. “Customers are strapped and look to us to help make sustainable products. This is quite different from the way retailers think. It’s not about putting sustainable brands next to other brands.”
What progress has Wal-Mart made since former chief executive officer H. Lee Scott sounded the sustainability cry? To much fanfare, the retailer in 2009, said it would help create a sustainable index and gave the initial funding for a sustainable consortium. To date, the consortium has 100 members. The index measures key performance indicators and category-specific metrics to evaluate a retailer’s performance and supply chain performance.
Wal-Mart has addressed 190 categories and received responses from more than 1,000 suppliers. Buyer index scorecards show how suppliers rank within a category. “It’s a key performance indicator,” Rice said. “We needed a structure that the merchant leadership would latch onto. The buyer gives the supplier a very simple and actionable tool.”
Wal-Mart has 100,000 suppliers, from consumer products giants such as Unilever to “a very small company that supplies T-shirts with local high school logos to a dozen Wal-Marts,” Rice said. “We provide training and Webinars. The buyer index scorecard itself is a training tool. It’s supposed to help suppliers understand where their opportunities are. We’re not going to cut you if you’re not at a certain level.”
Wal-Mart has made a conscious decision not to use sustainability as a way to drive down prices, Rice said. “We think it’s good and efficient for the supply chains.” One of the 200 factories in China involved in a Wal-Mart energy efficiency project saw energy efficiency improve 20 percent. “We didn’t take those savings from our supplier and pass them on to the customer,” Rice said, “but we know it’s helping our supply chain.”
“These collections continue to build on that vision, empowering differently abled adults to express themselves through fashion,” said @tommyhilfiger of his line of adaptive apparel, which launches today. The line consists of 37 men’s and 34 women’s styles based upon the pieces from the spring Tommy Hilfiger sportswear collection. #wwdnews
“Stranger Things” is getting a new cast member for season 2. Meet @sadiesink_, the 15-year-old who will be joining the Netflix series for its new season. You may recognize her from “The Glass Castle” with Brie Larson and Woody Harrelson, but the Texas native’s next role goes in an entirely different direction. She describes her character, Max, as “a rough and tumble skater girl [who] becomes friends with the boys at school.” The second season debuts on October 27. (📷: @jgreenery) #wwdeye
Amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy, there’s another sector that’s being put under the spotlight for sexual abuse: the modeling industry. While rumors about abuse and sexual harassment of female and male models — and the photographers, agents and others who perpetrated it — have circulated within the fashion world for years, model @cameronrussell started posting stories from models on Instagram last week about abusive situations they’ve encountered — from sexual harassment and molestation to attempted rape. Over 75 have weighed in so far. Read more on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews
To celebrate its 16th anniversary, @dylanscandybar tapped designers and celebrities to create mosaics out of candy. The mosaics will be auctioned off to support the philanthropic cause of each participant’s choice. Pictured here is the mural created by @aliceandolivia's Stacey Bendet. For a first look at some of the other artwork being unveiled tonight, go to WWD.com. #wwdeye
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye