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Walmart goes to bat for jobs and the environment

Pretty soon, consumers will be able to wander into their neighborhood Walmart and go green when they purchase their bath towels. A new initiative from the retail mega-chain aims to create more jobs in America as well as make manufacturing more environmentally-friendly.

In 2014, Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and the United States Conference of Mayors launched a funded effort to make it more cost-effective to manufacture household goods in the United States. Called the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation Fund, it has awarded a total of $10 million in grants, including approximately $3 million for projects having to do with domestic manufacturing.

The Boston Consulting Group expects that the initiative will create around 1 million new jobs in the U.S.

The effort isn’t only focused on job creation, however. The Innovation Fund is also meant to promote development of environmentally-friendly manufacturing practices. For example, Cornell University was the recipient of one investment. Researchers there designed a method to turn post-consumer textiles into brand-new products. An added plus: it reduces energy and water consumption.

Grant recipients are carefully chosen and must meet specific criteria. They must be able to reduce the overall cost of textile manufacturing in the U.S. – a problem that has traditionally led to manufacturing being shipped overseas. They must also develop manufacturing processes in a way that can be broadly applied across many different kinds of products.

Among the 2017 winners of the Walmart U.S. Manufacturing Innovation grant is Washington State University. They’re working to create a green process to recycle cotton waste. Since waste products creating from the dyeing process is a huge concern to manufacturers and environmentalists, University of Massachusetts Lowell was also one of the several winners. Researchers there are in the process of developing an eco-friendly magnetic dyeing technology.

By Dawn Henderson, Staff Writer

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