Walmart and Mars

What does this title mean, you ask? Walmart and Mars are two global companies moving the ball forward to combat climate change. Mind you, it is not just altruism driving these efforts, it is creating a sustainable, more predictable and better cost model. And, companies care about cost.

On PBS Newshour yesterday, an update on an earlier story was provided.  Walmart has a goal of being 100% renewable energy powered which they established a decade ago under CEO Scott Lee. They started simply, retraining their truck drivers on better ways to shift gears and drive to save fuel costs and actually measure fuel efficiency in truck driver performance.

Walmart also is converting their 12,000 stores to renewable energy. The PBS Newhour update noted that almost 500 stores in the US have been converted to solar power. Now, 28% of their US energy needs comes from solar energy. Retail stores have a lot of roof space, so companies like Walmart and IKEA have growing numbers of solar powered stores. They are also asking their suppliers to be better environmental stewards.

Mars is known for its candy, the biggest seller being M&Ms. Their goal is to make decisions that are “good for the environment and good for Mars,” They are using combinations of solar and wind energy to power their manufacturing plants. They just rolled out a new wind farm in Texas, a state that produces more wind energy than any other. Mars has noted their costs are lower with the renewable energy.

Fortunately, Walmart and Mars are not alone. Google, Facebook and Amazon are driving forces behind renewable energy given their significant data and distribution center power needs. Their centers in North Carolina are a reason NC ranks so highly on solar energy lists.

Yet, we should not lose sight that the cost of renewable energy has decreased so greatly, the decision is not just environmental, it is economic. Paula Diparno of CDP said on PBS Newshour that addressing climate change is “no longer a punishment, it is an opportunity.”

That is a huge shift in mindset. She added that there are three stakeholders for companies – customers, shareholders and management. Customers are noticing, shareholders are becoming more insistent and management better be paying attention. To this end, Blackrock, a major institutional investor, is requiring its companies to define what they are doing about renewable energy and climate change.

To this end, because of Blackrock’s efforts, Exxon Mobil’s shareholders voted last year to require management to do more and report back on addressing climate change. Ironically, this vote was the day before the current US President announced that he was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Change Accord. That contrast speaks volumes.


18 thoughts on “Walmart and Mars

  1. I think I shall have a sustainable Mars Bar in a minute. It’s great that some American Corporations are still marching towards using renewable energy and finding it benefits their company profits to. I’d be interested to now how many companies followed President Trump on his long march in the opposite direction. How many were actually starting to use renewable energy but gave up with his declaration that Global Warming wasn’t true. On the other hand it would cheer me greatly to find that many more have climbed aboard the renewable energy bus since that declaration. That the U.S. is working towards the Paris agreement without Government Sanction.

    • David, there was a study done last week. The report describes while significant efforts are being made by companies, states and local governments, they need the leverage of the US government which has been lacking with this President. This is a key reason I write posts like this.

      Last month I was in Home Depot looking for a replacement battery for my electric mower. The Home Depot person helping me noted that we need to move to renewables, but the cost was seven times that of coal. I responded that used to be the case, but is no longer true. Costs are more on par. I shared the story of Georgetown, TX who chose a renewable energy model as it was cheaper than the natural gas model. They are now 100% powered by renewable energy. It should be noted their mayor is a CPA, so numbers matter. Keith

    • Colette, I agree. What he and too many Republicans fail to understand is the world is passing them by. If we do not innovate and keep up, the future renewable jobs will go elsewhere. Fortunately, US companies are making up the slack.

      A key fear of the energy companies and utilities, are many of the renewable energy models need not be large scale. If they don’t help the effort, they could be bypassed as Walmart and IKEA are doing. The key to all this is battery storage, which continues to improve – Southern Australia is largely solar powered with a major battery implementation by Elon Musk working with a French company on the solar panels. Keith

      • What we really need is a breakthrough on Superconductor battery storage and delivery. Currently it is possible at absolute 0°F but that of course is not practice for delivery of power without heat loss robbing it of large percentages of power, but there are a number of scientists working on this problem. When they get a breakthrough, fossil fuels will be seen as inefficient and no longer used. They will go the way of the cathode rar tube, the steam engine and the floppy disk… All will be consigned to the museum and be just the toys of a very few old enthusiasts.

      • Colette, you have laid out even more developments that could pave the way. The key is developing for the future state, not holding onto the past, which the Republican Party is told to cling to by their fossil funders. There are conservative groups that are promoting movements to renewable, but it has to be done with subterfuge, which shows how idiotic Trump and the party’s stance is. Keith

    • Hugh, you hit the nail on the head. We just need to keep moving forward and sharing the progress. Those who get their information from pseudo news outlets would be stunned by the actual progress. Keith

    • Roger, there is a movement forward with or without the US federal government. It would be better to leverage their investment, but right now the movement needs Trump to just stay out of the way and let progress happen. Keith

      • If this is being conducted by large companies with substantial financial resources I doubt if there is much he will be able to do about it.
        After all they are from ‘his world’…
        Only in a far higher league of flexibility and foresight.

      • Roger, very true. The big lie beside “climate change is a hoax,” is “renewable energy costs a lot more than fossil fuel costs.” The latter is no longer true and big companies are seeing that. The production costs are not only similar, when all cost are factored in, renewables beat the pants off coal costs and are better than natural gas. Utilities like Duke Energy and TVA have to deal with maintenance of coal ash sites and leakage, along with litigation, far after the coal was burned, even after the plant shuts down. To me, this a huge reason not to burn coal anymore. Keith

      • Coming from a coal mining area I have this irrational stupid nostalgia for the big dirty pits. There is probably a niche for coal products, somewhere, but burning it wholesale- the time is past.

      • A culture based around the work, the union, the church, the social life and of course Rugby.
        All passed. Nothing replaced the mines so the small towns look very depressing and forlorn.
        It’s salutary to see now that the pits are closed Nature is reclaiming the landscapes. It is possible that in about a century the lands will be thickly wooded valleys again….

  2. Dear Keith,

    I wonder if the Koch brothers realize that they are being left behind with other dinosaurs as other companies are not buying their pushing the “fake news” that climate change science is not for real.

    One of these days they are going to be faced with the reality that while they may have been right on a few things, they were wrong on a lot of issues as well, like with climate change Do they ever sit back and realize that they helped create the environment where a Donald Trump could be the US president?

    They and their dark monies will go down in the history books for having done a lot of harm to this country. But they would have to be big enough to admit to their greed coloring their judgment.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, one thing that strikes me about the Koch Brothers is they want to control the spigot. While naysaying climate change, they are investing in water rights. “Water is the new oil” was said about eight years ago and the guy on whom “The Big Short” that predicted the housing crisis, is investing in water rights as well. Keith

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