August 28, 2012 / 10:25 PM / 7 years ago

Wal-Mart joins agriculture sustainability group

A Walmart Neighborhood Market sign is seen outside a newly opened store in Chicago September 21, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young

(Reuters) - The world’s largest retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc has joined an alliance of other Fortune 500 companies, including Cargill and Kellogg Co, seeking to make agriculture more sustainable.

The Field to Market alliance was started three years ago by the non-profit Keystone Center to improve agricultural productivity and reduce the use of natural resources. It includes farm groups, grain handlers and food makers but Wal-Mart is the first retailer in the group and now its largest member.

“We have pretty ambitious goals to sell products that are sustainable and this is directly within that framework,” Rob Kaplan, Wal-Mart’s senior manager of sustainability, said of the new partnership.

The group studies major crops and works with farmers to make agriculture more environmentally friendly. A report released earlier this summer highlighted how six crops — corn, cotton, potatoes, rice, soybeans and wheat — are now being produced more efficiently than they were in the last three decades.

On one project sponsored by Field to Market, General Mills Inc worked with 25 wheat growers in Idaho to learn how to maximize the use of fertilizer and other products used in farming, such as seed, insecticides and herbicides.

Wal-Mart is seeking to eliminate 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015. Last year, the company said it turned 1.2 million pounds of cooking oil recovered from its stores into biodiesel, soap and a supplement for cattle feed.

Other members of the alliance include Bunge Ltd, Coca-Cola Co and the National Corn Growers Association.

Reporting by Michael Hirtzer in Chicago. Additional reporting by Jessica Wohl; editing by Carol Bishopric

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