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story.lead_photo.caption This undated file photo shows Wal-Mart's sign in front of its Bentonville headquarters.

Walmart Inc. is working on a program to link its suppliers who source materials in regions at risk of deforestation with guidance from conservation groups to help protect those environments.

Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart's chief sustainability officer, announced the plan while participating on a deforestation panel at last week's Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. The supplier initiative is part of Project Gigaton, which the Bentonville retailer debuted in April 2017 with the goal of eliminating a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain by 2030.

Removing 1 gigaton of emissions is equal to taking more than 211 million passenger vehicles off U.S. roads and highways for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency's greenhouse gas equivalency calculator.

The company is working with nongovernmental organizations Conservation International, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund in both Project Gigaton and the new platform for suppliers.

Walmart spokesman Micah Ragland said in an email that the company's vision "is to foster linkages between our supply chain partners and critical sourcing geographies like Sabah, Malaysia; North Sumatra, Indonesia; and Mato Grosso, Brazil, to bring private-sector support in advancing local sustainable landscape objectives."

On Walmart's online Sustainability Hub for supplier members of Project Gigaton, the company cites the production of agricultural commodities such as palm oil, soy, beef and wood pulp as the main driver of tropical deforestation around the globe. The retailer has committed to sourcing these commodities from suppliers who produce them with zero net deforestation by 2020.

Ragland said McLaughlin also co-headlined a panel hosted by Harvard Business Review and the We Mean Business coalition that highlighted companies taking significant climate action. She pointed out that Walmart is working to reduce emissions in its operations 18 percent by 2025 in addition to its Project Gigaton goal.

Walmart was also formally represented at the gathering by Laura Phillips, its senior vice president of global sustainability. Ragland said Phillips represented the retailer on a panel hosted by We Are Still In, a coalition of more than 200 businesses, universities, elected officials, tribes and faith groups collaborating in support for the Paris Climate Agreement. Phillips also co-headlined an official panel on Walmart's efforts to lower emissions in its operations and supply chain.

Project Gigaton, which recently expanded into China and the U.K., now has more than 600 supplier members with operations in more than 30 countries. To date, suppliers have reported reducing more than 22 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in the global supply chain.

Business on 09/20/2018

Print Headline: Supplier plan has climate objective

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