Why Sustainable Agriculture is Important to Everyone

By many estimates, the global population is going to reach 9 billion people by 2050 and food production will have to increase 70 percent to meet the demands of a booming population. Looking ahead, few issues will be more important to the world and the world's fastest growing markets than food and agriculture.

Sustainable agriculture is a tremendous opportunity for Walmart to make a difference across a range of issues and in a number of people's lives. We recently announced a broad group of goals around agriculture focusing on all of our global markets. We organized our commitment around three principles supported by global goals, which we aim to achieve by the end of 2015.

Today more than 1 billion people around the world depend on farming for their livelihoods. Hundreds of millions live on less than $2 a day. In emerging markets, Walmart set a goal to raise farmer income by 10 to 15 percent. To do this we will sell $1 billion in food sourced from 1 million small and medium farmers by the end of 2015. For example, food sourced in Argentina will be sold in our stores in Argentina or food sourced in China will be sold in Walmart's stores in China. 


In addition, Walmart will help train farmers and farm workers to grow food more sustainably, with the optimum amounts of water, pesticides and fertilizers, and to grow the crops the market will buy. Our efforts are not a one-size-fits-all approach, but tailored to the unique needs of each of our global markets.


In the United States, Walmart has committed to doubling the sale of locally sourced produce, which we define as grown and sold in the same state, to reach 9 percent of all produce sold.

Food waste is a big problem. Globally, it's estimated 30 to 40 percent of food is wasted as it moves from farms to tables. This can't continue. We must produce more and waste less.

One of the biggest challenges facing everyone is the lack of a cold supply chain around the world. Walmart will invest more than $1 billion over the next five years in our fresh supply chain to help increase capacity and reduce waste. In addition, we will reduce food waste in our emerging market stores and clubs by 15 percent and in other markets by 10 percent.

Think about that. When we reach this goal, Walmart will have increased the amount of fresh food available to our customers around the world by 10 percent without growers having to use any more land, water, energy or fertilizer. This is a significant opportunity for all food retailers to help producers meet the growing global demand for food.

Farming practices are having unintended side effects on the environment, from greenhouse gas emissions to deforestation of the world's rainforests. Two of the major contributors to deforestation are certain types of palm oil and beef production. We think Walmart can play a leadership role in both areas.


We will require sustainably sourced palm oil in all of our private brand products globally by the end of 2015. It's encouraging to see that many well known national brands are also moving to sustainable palm oil.

Recent studies have shown that nearly 60 percent of the deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is related to cattle ranching expansion. Walmart Brazil has already committed to source beef that does not contribute to deforestation of the Amazon. We have now expanded that commitment to the entire Walmart supply chain.


We think these commitments are a good start -- but they are only the beginning. We recognize as the global population continues to grow, it only becomes more important for Walmart to ensure the food we source is grown in a responsible manner, both environmentally and socially. It's also important that we report progress on these goals in an open and transparent way, and I encourage others to follow our progress and let us know how you think we are doing.