Enhancing profitability is the target of every business, and an efficient supply chain creates a win-win situation for both the consumers as well as the business runners. However, in today’s circumstances the challenge is to save the environment from further deterioration, and it is for the benefit of both – the buyer and the seller. Responding to this common cause, recently the Walmart investors have voted on the first-ever shareholder resolution on refrigerants and their related climate impacts.

Refrigerants used in Walmart

Walmart uses highly potent Hydro-Fluoro-Carbons (HFCs), which are greenhouse gases with thousands of times the warming power of carbon dioxide. HFCs are rapidly leaking out of Walmart facilities and make up 48% of the company’s direct climate-damaging emissions. The company emits over three million metric tons of HFCs, equating to more than half a million cars on the road each year. Several competitors of Walmart, including Aldi and Target, are far ahead in adopting climate-friendly refrigerants in their stores.

Voters in favour of preventing climate change

The initial count indicates that 5.5% of investors voted in favour of the proposal filed by Rhode Island Treasurer Seth Magaziner, urging Walmart to disclose how it will limit its impact on climate change by increasing the scale, pace and rigour of its plans to significantly scale back HFCs used in its operations.

The 5.5% outcome is particularly significant, since the first-year resolution only needed to meet the threshold of 5% support to be considered in a second year. This puts considerable pressure on Walmart to listen to concerned shareholders and take action on HFCs. Walmart had advised its investors to vote against the resolution to report on its HFC emissions and it’s notable that the Walton family holds nearly half of Walmart’s shares.

Commenting on the outcome, Beth Porter, Climate Campaigns Director for Green America, said, “Today’s shareholder vote shows that a growing number of investors are concerned that Walmart’s 2040 target for phasing down HFC climate super-pollutants is out of step with global and domestic policy. The resolution received enough support to be re-introduced next year, and in the meantime, investors and consumers will continue pressuring Walmart to cut its HFC emissions on a more rapid timeline.”

Praising the voters’ decision, Christina Starr, Senior Policy Analyst for the Environmental Investigation Agency, said, “Today’s vote is a pivotal step in investors calling on Walmart to address its largest source of direct climate emissions. As more and more investors care about meaningful climate action, pressure will mount on supermarkets like Walmart to address refrigerant leaks and stop using super-polluting HFCs quickly.”

Campaign for fast adoption of refrigerants with ultra-low GWP

Green America and the Environmental Investigation Agency are running campaigns to mobilize consumer pressure to get Walmart to address its HFC leaks and adopt ultra-low-Global Warming Potential (GWP) alternatives rapidly. The company took a voluntary pledge in 2010 to begin phasing out HFCs, but its emissions have steadily increased since then.

In September 2020, after years of mounting public pressure through advocacy campaigns and growing regulatory progress on refrigerants, Walmart finally announced a goal to transition to ‘low-impact’ refrigerants by 2040 – but the company has neither provided any details of how it will meet this target nor even it delivered specifics on what refrigerants it planned to adopt. The best practice for lowering climate impacts is to use ‘ultra-low GWP’ refrigerant options with a GWP less than 5 instead of ‘low-GWP, which can still have hundreds of times the warming potential of CO2.

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