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How Walmart’s New Sustainability Goal Is Different From Its Rivals

Walmart has unveiled ambitious plans to eliminate its carbon footprint in just two decades.

The big-box chain announced today that has targeted zero emissions across its global operations by 2040. Working along with its philanthropic arm Walmart Foundation, it also intends to restore at least 50 million acres of land and a million square miles of ocean in a decade to help combat the effects of climate change.

“For 15 years, we have been partnering to do the work and continually raising our sustainability ambitions across climate action, nature, waste and people,” president and CEO Doug McMillion said in a statement. “The commitments we’re making today not only aim to decarbonize Walmart’s global operations, they also put us on the path to becoming a regenerative company — one that works to restore, renew and replenish in addition to preserving our planet — and encourages others to do the same.”

In order to achieve its goals without carbon offsets, Walmart said it would need to harvest enough wind, solar and other energy sources to power its facilities with 100% renewable energy by 2035. What’s more, it said it would cut out emissions from all of its vehicles, including long-haul delivery trucks, plus transition to low-impact refrigerants for cooling and electrified equipment for heating in its stores, clubs and distribution centers by 2040.

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If it’s able to accomplish its new objective, Walmart would be 10 years early to meeting the Paris Agreement, which was ratified four years ago and seeks to keep the rise in the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Its commitment also differs from those of other companies, which seek to be net zero but often use carbon-offset programs — such as tree-planting activities or building wind farms to replace coal-fired power plants — to make up for existing pollution.

“We must all take urgent, sustained action to reverse nature loss and emissions before we reach a tipping point from which we will not recover,” added Walmart’s EVP and chief sustainability officer, Kathleen McLaughlin, who also serves as president of the Walmart Foundation. “People have pushed past the earth’s natural limits. Healthy societies, resilient economies and thriving businesses rely on nature.”

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