Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is reaching out to the masses to help spread the word about its newest sustainability goals. The company announced a new global sustainable agriculture goal during a live webcast with an accompanying Twitter conversation this morning.

The new sustainable agriculture goals will enable small- and medium-sized farm owners around the world to expand their businesses, increase their revenues, improve local economies and reduce their farms' environmental impact. These goals fall into three main categories: support farmers and their communities, produce more food with fewer resources and less waste, and sustainably source key agriculture products.

To increase its support of farmers and their communities, Wal-Mart plans to meet several goals by 2015 including increasing the income of small- and medium-sized farm owners by 10 to 15 percent, providing training to 1 million farm owners and farm workers — with 50 percent of those trained being women — selling $1 billion in food from 1 million farmers and doubling the sale of locally sourced produce in its retail outlets.

Wal-Mart will continue its research into supply chain sustainability with the new farm-specific goals. The company will begin a Sustainable Produce Assessment in 2011, invest $1 billion in its global fresh supply chain over the next five years and reduce food waste in its emerging market retail outlets by 15 percent and reduce waste in existing markets by 10 percent by the end of 2015.

The final goal, sustainably source key agriculture products, includes two goals: requiring sustainably sourced palm oil and only source beef that does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon rain forest. By 2015, all of the palm oil used in Wal-Mart’s private label products will be sustainably sourced. Although this is a global goal, completing this step for U.K. and U.S. private label products will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5 million metric tons in just five years.

The deforestation of the Amazon rain forest has been a concern for decades. Surprisingly, 60 percent of the deforestation is directly related to cattle ranching expansion. As part of its new sustainable agriculture goals, Wal-Mart will not source beef from any of these ranches that contribute to deforestation by the end of 2015.

In addition to the global goals, there are also a few country-specific sustainable agriculture goals. Walmart retail stores in Japan will reduce in-store food waste by 35 percent, Canadian stores will locally source 30 percent of its produce, China will increase the sale of organic certified products, and stores in Argentina will be increasing produce sales from small- and medium-sized farm owners.

The company’s live webcast announcement was followed by a panel discussion featuring several experts including a farmer who is already involved in a farm-to-store produce program here in the United States, Carter Roberts from the World Wildlife Fund discussing the importance of sustainable agriculture on a global level, and a farmer in Mexico who doesn’t use pesticides on the produce it supplies to Walmart but instead uses beneficial insects to keep his produce healthy.

More information about Wal-Mart’s new global sustainable agriculture initiative is available on the company’s corporate website.

See also:

Sustainable supply chain

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