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BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- In a speech yesterday to more than 7,000 store managers at the annual kick-off meeting for U.S. Wal-Mart stores, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and c.e.o. Lee Scott said the company would continue to demonstrate leadership and work for change on major issues important to Wal-Mart's customers, communities, associates, and suppliers worldwide.
"It is important for all of us to understand that there are a number of issues facing the world that will profoundly affect our lives and our company," Scott said. "I am talking to you about issues like international trade, climate change, water shortages, social and economic inequities, infrastructure and foreign oil. Wal-Mart can take a leadership role, get out in front of the future, and make a difference that is good for our business and the world."
Building on the vision laid out in his October 2005 Leadership in the 21st Century speech, Scott yesterday pledged that the company would take action on energy efficiency, ethical sourcing, and affordable health care. In the coming months and years, the company will work to extend its mission of saving people money so they can live better, to also help customers use less energy and spend less on energy.
Wal-Mart said it is working to lead an effort by major global retailers to create common social and environmental standards for suppliers. The company will also require all of its suppliers to meet specific environmental, social, and quality standards and it will make compliance with those standards part of its contracts.
In addition, Wal-Mart said in the coming months it will be taking action to help drive down the cost of health care, increase the number of electronic prescriptions, and promote the use of electronic medical records.
"Leadership is not about looking over your shoulder and living in the past. It is about looking over the horizon and envisioning the future," Scott said. "What began 27 months ago as a commitment from the top of our company, is now a commitment from the heart of our company."
In the speech, Scott laid out a new company-wide goal to work with suppliers to make the most energy-intensive products in Wal-Mart stores, anywhere in the world, 25 percent more energy-efficient within three years.
"We believe we can do this," Scott said. "Wal-Mart can help our customers use less energy and spend less on energy. This will also help every country where we operate reduce their dependence on foreign oil."
To that end, Wal-Mart said it plans to work with suppliers to make the products on its shelves more accessible, more energy efficient, and more affordable. Scott also said the company would take the lead on informing customers about the energy required to make and use more energy-intensive products.
"Taking waste and non-renewable energy out of our supply chain reduces the amount of pollution and greenhouse gases our suppliers send into the atmosphere," Scott said. "And helping our customers buy more sustainable products and be better stewards of the environment reduces their own carbon footprint. This is something that I think all of us can be proud of."
Scott also said Wal-Mart will launch a major, retail-industry effort to improve social, ethical, and environmental standards in the supplier factories that it sources from. Wal-Mart will work with CIES, a global retail and consumer goods network, and a number of other global retailers to achieve this goal.
Scott also called on all major global retailers to join Wal-Mart and CIES in its effort and pledged to meet with the chief executive's of its own competitors to make socially and environmentally responsible sourcing a reality across the entire retail industry.
"Our customers want products that make them feel good about their purchases," Scott said. "They want to walk into our stores and be confident that the products on our shelves are safe and durable. They also want products that are made in a way that is consistent with their own personal values."
Wal-Mart operates Wal-Mart discount stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam's Club locations in the United States. The company also operates in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.