Blog: Katy AskewWal-Mart targets "greener" food production

Katy Askew | 8 October 2014

Wal-Mart threw down the gauntlet to its suppliers this week, when it announced a "commitment" to create "a more sustainable food system".

Grocery is Wal-Mart's largest category and the company is the US's largest grocer - a scale that provides considerable clout with its supplier base. Wal-Mart now wants to use this influence to make the food it sells more sustainable - whether it be reducing the water used in agricultural production or cutting food miles.

"The future of food is absolutely critical for both our society and for our business," CEO Doug McMillon said. "We have a huge opportunity to make a difference here."

There are four pillar's to Wal-Mart's sustainability food drive: reducing the "true cost" of food, including its environmental footprint; increasing access to more nutritious food; making it easier for consumers to eat more healthily; and tightening food safety and security.

Wal-Mart's "commitments" might seem light on detail. Critics could, perhaps, point to the fact that they are not measurable and the retailer has not provided a time-scale. But what they do serve as is something of a wake-up call to food manufacturers.

Wal-Mart is reacting to the long-term needs of its business. It is also responding to growing consumer awareness around sustainability issues in the US. As just-food argued today, food manufacturers are trailing these trends and some considerable leg-work is required if the US food majors are to regain momentum and get ahead of the curve.

 

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