Examining the Sustainability Journey of Walmart

Business researchers from the University of Arkansas and the University of South Carolina will be examining Walmart’s 7-year sustainability effort as a way to create a teaching tool for other businesses that hope to become more environmentally friendly.

As researchers from the University of Arkansas and the University of South begin their project of examining Walmart’s efforts of becoming more sustainable for nearly a decade, they hope to find ways to help other businesses overcome certain obstacles in order to be more environmentally conscious. The project will consist of a series of cases that focus on a single topic and a single organization over a specific amount of time.

“The strategy is to embed sustainability within the core business supporting the company’s vision for a more sustainable Walmart. Numerous initiatives, some of which are documented in the case series, are part of this strategy that led to international recognition of Walmart’s sustainability leadership,” said David Hyatt, clinical assistant professor in the Sam M. Walton College of Business.

The cases explore a set of essential questions across three levels: societal, organizational and individual. For example, at the societal level, who should set standards for sustainability – government, society, consumers, scientists or companies? At the organizational level, who evaluates and measures sustainability, who should make decisions about strategy and how should the strategy be implemented? At the individual level, what does sustainability mean to the consumer or employee? The studies ask several other questions pertaining to each level.

The first case study will look at former CEO Lee Scott’s “Leadership in the 21st Century” speech from 2005, in which he publicly announced Walmart’s sustainability goals. Other studies will include the examination of how the company planned certain goals and processes, implementing LED lights and environmentally friendly shopping bags, and other strategies that have already been used by Walmart.