Walmart is stepping up its efforts to create a more sustainable food system, the company announced earlier this week.
The nation’s largest grocery chain, which sells more food in the U.S. than any other retailer, says it’s going to wield its influence with its suppliers and food producers to influence certain criteria, such as water usage and transport.
“What’s become clearer and clearer is that we have a real challenge globally around feeding the world’s growing population in a way that doesn’t cut down every last tree and use every last drop of water,” Kathleen McLaughlin, senior vice president for global sustainability at Walmart told the New York Times.
According to the Times, Walmart’s new effort to enhance sustainability “has four legs: reducing the overall cost of food, including its environmental footprint; increasing access to more nutritious food; making it easier for its customers to eat healthier foods; and improving food safety, with greater transparency about where food comes from and how it is produced.”
Walmart has a long history of working with environmental groups on issues like reducing packaging sizes and decreasing energy costs, and the retail giant is working with groups including the Environmental Defense Fund and Feeding America in its latest green initiative, along with its supplier partners. “General Mills and Walmart, for example, are sponsoring a challenge that will reward farmers who show the most progress in reducing emissions through better management of fertilizer application,” the Times explains. “To reduce food waste, Walmart has begun developing more ways to use a ‘whole crop’ in its private label food production and placing an emphasis on more efficient ordering to reduce spoilage.”
The chain will also be focusing on making healthier foods more accessible, particularly in the nation’s food deserts. According to McLaughlin, Walmart will be supplying 4 billion more meals over the next five years, increasing its donations to food banks and meals for schools.
The news comes just as Whole Foods Market is about to launch its produce rating system designed to help consumers purchase the healthiest and most sustainable food option. Consumer demand for healthy options, transparency and sustainability in the food system is at an all-time high.
“We want to democratize healthy eating,” McLaughlin said. “You shouldn’t have to pay more to eat something nutritious.”
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