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Walmart Inc. released a report Wednesday outlining progress toward its goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions and waste, support human rights and increase economic opportunity for employees.

The 94-page 2019 Environmental, Social and Governance Report covers the Bentonville-based retailer's fiscal 2019, which ended Jan. 31. Walmart spokesman Blair Cromwell said the document is a streamlined version of the Global Sustainability Report the retailer has issued in previous years.

Walmart's environmental, social and governance stakeholders had asked for a more distilled, focused look at the company's metrics, Cromwell said. "This is a new way for us to report the same information," she said. "It's just packaged differently."

The retailer also released on its website the annual update of its Global Ethics and Compliance Program, and it announced a new website, Walmart.org, showcasing the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and its charitable arm, the Walmart Foundation.

The new report includes a look at Walmart's plans to improve employee wages and benefits, advance economic mobility and foster inclusion in its workforce. Full-time hourly employees in the company's U.S. stores earned an average of $14.26 an hour as of March, according to the report, with average total compensation and benefits of $19.31 an hour.

Of Walmart's 2.2 million employees worldwide, a little more than 1 million of them work in the U.S. Walmart doesn't release the percentage of employees who work full time, but spokesman Kory Lundberg said most hourly workers in U.S. stores are full-time employees.

Lundberg said more than 175,000 workers last year changed from part-time to full-time status. They picked up the additional hours in a number of ways, he said, such as working online pickup or taking on extra shifts. After employees work full-time hours for 12 weeks, he said, they are "converted" to full-time status.

A new scheduling app makes going full time even easier for those who want to work more hours, Lundberg said. A worker can swap shifts with another employee, for instance, or pick up shifts that have not yet been assigned, he said.

According to the report, 55% of Walmart's total U.S. workforce is female, as is 43% of its U.S. management. Store managers in the U.S. earn an average of $175,000 annually, and more than 75% of U.S. store operations management personnel started out as hourly employees.

The environmental section of the report addresses Walmart's initiatives on climate change, sustainability in the supply chain and waste reduction. The company said in the report that its suppliers participating in Project Gigaton avoided more than 102 million tons of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions over the past two years. Walmart started Project Gigaton in April 2017 with the goal of eliminating a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from the supply chain by 2030.

Walmart said 28% of its electricity now comes from renewable resources, putting it more than halfway toward its 50% goal for renewable energy by 2025. In addition, the retailer diverted 81% of unsold products, packaging and other waste materials away from U.S. landfills last year, and it recycled more than 430 million pounds of plastics globally, the company said.

Kathleen McLaughlin, Walmart's chief sustainability officer, said in a news release that the goal of the sustainability initiatives "is not only minimizing our own footprint or mitigating risk, but to inspire collective action to help transform the sector for long-term environmental, social and economic sustainability."

"We believe business exists to serve society," she said. "When business engages to be part of the solution, not only can we help accelerate progress in the world, we make our business better too."

While many large companies issue reports of this type, the average investor doesn't pay much attention, said Brian Yarbrough, a retail analyst with Edward Jones.

It's not that the reports aren't important, Yarbrough said, adding that there are some investors who focus on these issues and on socially responsible investing.

"But at the end of the day, I don't think investors put a lot of weight into these things, for the most part," he said. "They care about sales and earnings."

Business on 05/09/2019

Print Headline: Walmart reports initiatives' progress

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