At Walmart, we believe customers shouldn’t have to choose between a product they can afford and one that’s good for people and the environment. Helping people save money and live better means more than just price leadership, it means leading on the big issues that matter to our customers and our communities.
The Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) Index (formerly the Sustainability Index) is the independent, science-based, holistic sustainability performance solution that allows brands and manufacturers to understand the sustainability story of their products and tell that story to retailers, investors, consumers and NGOs. THESIS was developed by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC). Walmart uses the data from THESIS assessments to identify key social and environmental hot spots and to set an agenda as we work with our suppliers to drive continuous improvement. Suppliers can see their own scores, how they rank relative to the field and gain insight into improvement opportunities for each of the categories they supply.
Back in 2005, Walmart and Sam's Club made a promise to our customers to sell products that sustain people and the environment. In 2009, we promised to create a sustainability index that would establish baselines and track progress against that goal. Then in 2012, we committed to buying 70 percent of the goods sold in our U.S. stores and clubs from suppliers who participate in our THESIS Index program by 2017. Over 1,300 of our suppliers participated in fiscal year 2017 (FY’17), and we are excited to announce over 1600 suppliers participated in fall of 2020. Our success story to produce the “Every Day Low True Cost (EDLTC) T-shirt" is just one of our success stories.
Using THESIS as a guide, we challenged ourselves and one of our leading apparel suppliers, Intradeco, to significantly improve the sustainability of our $3.88 ladies’ t-shirt—without raising the price. Our collaboration has produced the EDLTC shirt. The cotton used is traceable to the Mississippi Delta in the U.S. Intradeco reuses 30 percent of the water used during the manufacturing process, and the t-shirt is manufactured using nearly 50 percent renewable energy. To engage our customers, we have highlighted key sustainability attributes of the EDLTC story on the product display. While this initiative focused on one supplier and one product, the success of the EDLTC t-shirt sends an essential message: high-quality, more sustainable products are part of the Walmart everyday low price promise. We plan to apply the EDLTC model to other apparel items as well as new areas of our supply chain.
Read TSC case studies to learn how other companies are leveraging THESIS to improve their products: Henkel, ECOS, Norcom, Church & Dwight, Ocean Spray, Lenovo, Clorox, Cambell’s and PMI Worldwide.
Science-based Sustainability Measurement
The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) is a global non-profit organization transforming the consumer goods industry to deliver more sustainable consumer products. THESIS performance assessments are comprised of key performance indicators (KPIs) with detailed user guidance and background information. TSC has also created supporting documents like KPI calculation tools, sustainability snapshots and, when available, illustrated supply chain diagrams. THESIS on SupplyShift is an interactive tool that highlights environmental and social hotspots relevant to a product category, practices that can be used to drive improvement on those hotspots, and KPIs to track and measure year-over-year performance.. THESIS is science-based and stakeholder-informed, including input by companies, academics, civil society organizations, and government agencies.
TSC research first identifies the materially significant environmental and social issues—or “hot spots”—across the product life cycle. At the same time, “improvement opportunities” are identified to address those hotspots. The supply chain hotspots and improvement opportunities are then summarized in THESIS supporting documents.
Next, KPIs are developed in the form of questions used to assess the sustainability performance against the most critical hotpots in each product category. Suppliers should complete an assessment for each product category that applies to what they supply. THESIS paints a picture of the sustainability challenges for nearly all consumer goods, from tomatoes to toys. We use THESIS data to identify key social and environmental hotspots and to set an agenda as we work with our suppliers to drive continuous improvement. We also use it to identify opportunities for special attention, such as fertilizer optimization or improved animal welfare, to help drive more substantial change quickly.
Finally, the performance assessment is integrated into decision-making tools throughout the business. The use of THESIS also sets the expectation that Walmart isn’t looking for change at the margins with a few niche products—we’re trying to raise the bar for all items we stock.
Additional details can be found on our corporate Sustainability site.
In FY’18, we met our goal of buying 70 percent of our U.S. goods in categories where the index is available from suppliers that participate in THESIS and we covered over 300 buyers in over 125 categories and we look to build upon that success this year with emphasis on the following:
- Having more quantifiable responses to KPIs by suppliers to better understand and communicate the sustainability of our product chains
- Continue to scale THESIS across more suppliers and a greater percentage of our sales
- Expanding and deepening the analytics and insights on THESIS data for our buyers and sourcing associates so they can incorporate it into their business
- Further engage buyers, suppliers and other stakeholders using the index data, analytics and insights to drive progress on key initiatives that help reduce emissions, produce less waste and make more sustainable products
THESIS Timeline 2021
The Walmart survey season, including Project Gigaton reporting, will start in September 2021. Updated training and webinar information can be found here.
THESIS Index Updates and Resources
THESIS on SupplyShift is available to companies with active licenses year-round. Annual updates to The Sustainability Insight System (THESIS) will be released mid-August 2021, at which time you can log onto or create your company profile and begin your product sustainability assessments.
TSC has created many resources for THESIS sustainability assessments with you in mind:
- THESIS Help Center: Library of short, self-guided support videos. Contact TSC at firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain the password.
- THESIS Help Desk: Email support offered by email@example.com
- Free THESIS guide: Optimize Your Sustainability Performance Assessment Process
- TSC Trained Service Providers: Trained professionals offering specialized assistance on completing THESIS assessments and using the resulting insights to improve sustainability performance.
- THESIS Live: Free monthly webinars offering guidance and insights on supply chain sustainability issues
- Supplier Resources and Info Page: TSC webpage featuring additional resources
- THESIS FAQs