Walmart recently hosted their first-ever Sustainable Product Expo in Bentonville, Ark. drawing more than 3,000 suppliers responsible for products from across all of their categories from all around the world. These companies are some of the key players who can focus on solving some of the greatest sustainability challenges we are facing today. One of the key themes of the event was collaboration, because they realize that by working together, they will have a far greater impact than acting alone.

Kathleen McLaughlin, President of the Walmart Foundation, explained the reasons behind hosting the event. “In the next 40 years, we will have another couple billion people on this planet, so that means over 9 billion people who need food, who need apparel, who need products to live. And we need to figure out a way to supply those products in a way that doesn't destroy the environment.”

The future for sustainability at Walmart is two-fold. The company continues to focus on getting their house in order:  How much energy does Walmart use? Can Walmart get to 100% renewable energy? Can Walmart drive their waste down to zero?

The second part is more challenging but will lead to an even greater impact. By looking at all of the products they sell and working with all of their partners – from farm to fork and factory to the hands of customers – all along the supply chain, how can they re-wire that chain with suppliers and others to make it more sustainable for the planet and the people who work in those chains?

“Walmart and our suppliers recognize that collaboration is the key to bringing sustainable solutions to all of our customers,” said Doug McMillon, president and chief executive officer of Walmart Stores, Inc. “A great deal of innovative work is happening every day, but there are still too many gaps and missed opportunities. Today’s commitments are about creating real systems change from one end of the supply chain to the other — meaning how products are grown and made, how they’re transported and sold, and how we touch the lives of people along the way.”   

McLaughlin says, “Sustainability for all means that you shouldn’t have to choose between a product that you can afford and a product that is sustainable for the environment.”

By sharing lessons learned and working together, every company and each individual can play a role in helping to create a more sustainable future.