Sharing best practice with the US

As you know from my previous post we are really keen to help our supply base become more sustainable. This will help deliver our customers’ demand for greener products – see page 7.

The Asda Sustain & Save Exchange, details on the link above, has been extremely successful in creating a space where we can all collaborate and learn from each other. So much so that I will soon have some news for you about its future.

So we were thinking about whether it would work outside of the UK within Walmart. On May 17th both us and Walmart US held an unique transatlantic conference call involving over 20 suppliers from Europe and the Americas who represent billions of pounds in sales. Our objectives were to discuss wider opportunities for a tool like our Sustain & Save Exchange to enable global sharing of sustainability best practice.

From the US we had Jim Stanway, Senior Director Global Supplier Initiatives (Energy) and Rob Kaplan, Senior Manager, from the US Sustainability Team. They kicked things off by discussing the current Walmart sustainability strategy, targets and the development of supply chain and product innovation projects to eliminate 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. We also discussed the new Walmart Sustainability Hub which, when launched, will help suppliers share best practice, explore case studies, submit new partnership proposals, and track progress. Similar to our own Exchange.

Along with Conrad Young of 2degrees (the company behind the Sustain & Save Exchange) I spoke about the success we’ve had in using the platform to help our suppliers share case studies, support each other via discussion forums, and learn about new trends and technologies using interactive webinars. Our Sustain & Save Exchange already represents £3 billion in products — creating significant opportunity for collaboration.

I’m very grateful to our supplier partners who then gave an overview of various projects they had recently completed to improve sustainability within their operations. We heard from Marfrig In Brazil, ABP, Lincolnshire Herbs, Shenandoah Growers, and Vion Food Group about their innovative solutions around environmental assessment of farms, the benefits of certification programs, new growing systems, and the tipping point for sustainability within their companies.

Finally we closed with a presentation from Alan Hayes of IGD on the power of online communities and what is required to make them successful: scale, shared objectives, process for engagement, and independence. This helped open up the conversation to ways that we all may be able to find additional scope for collaboration. Although there are challenges to be sure, our suppliers agreed that there are many lessons that they can learn from one another, even in spite of the geographic differences. The portals can be useful for the companies involved, but only if there is a degree of frank and honest feedback and the focus remains on providing tools for suppliers to tell their stories and find solutions from each other’s experiences.

So we proved our point – collaboration on sustainability can and should cross national borders. I really enjoyed the session. Watch this space for an exciting announcement on the future of the Asda Sustain & Save Exchange!!

Posted by Julian on 21 June 2012
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