Why Isn’t Walmart Addressing These Harmful Emissions?

The Problem

Green America recently launched Cool It, our campaign to address harmful emissions causing the climate crisis. The campaign focuses on hydrofluorocarbons, or “HFCs”, extremely potent greenhouse gases that are used as refrigerants in refrigerators and A/C Units.

HFCs are leaking into the atmosphere from faulty equipment and irresponsible disposal, which is dangerous because of their high global warming potential. HFCs have thousands of times the warming power of CO2, meaning there’s an urgency to address these short-lived, heavily polluting gases.

A quarter of refrigerant used at a typical supermarket leaks out every year, so we’re urging companies to act, beginning with Walmart. 

Our campaign urges Walmart to improve its refrigerant practices, as it reports that HFCs make up nearly half of its direct greenhouse gas emissions. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has also urged Walmart once again to at least catch up to other supermarkets and be more transparent on this issue.

Walmart has recently stated that it is making “great progress” on the goals of our campaign, but their own HFC emissions data and a lack of specifics on any new actions taken in the past five years tells a different story.  

 

Walmart Claim

Actual Progress

Walmart claims it reduced refrigerant emissions by 10 percent between 2016 and 2018. From 2012 to 2017, Walmart’s HFC emissions increased by 43.6 percent while the number of stores only increased by 4.7 percent (see below graph).
It claims to use best practices for maintenance and monitoring refrigerant systems. But it has not joined the EPA GreenChill Program on refrigerant management or publicly disclosed its corporate average refrigerant leak rate.
Walmart says it’s looking for ways to prevent energy waste and improve refrigerant performance in new systems. It has not provided any details on best practices employed for maintenance of equipment to reduce leaks and maintain high energy efficiency.
Walmart stated that it operates hundreds of facilities that are near HFC-free utilizing carbon dioxide and ammonia alternatives. No public information has been made available to confirm that Walmart has piloted or installed even one HFC-free supermarket refrigeration system.

 

Unfortunately, Walmart has a history of claims using vague language to describe its refrigerant practices without releasing target goals or timelines. For example, Walmart committed to begin phasing out HFC refrigerants starting in 2015, however its HFC emissions proceeded to increase by 16 percent the following year.

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