Sustainable Wal-Mart? A Greening of Retail

sustainable wal-martSounds like an oxymoron, especially to those who have long despised Wal-Mart and everything they stand for, but this leaf may be turning green.

Wal-Mart is soon to begin labeling the sustainability of their products and are even creating their own green index system that goes far beyond what most eco friendly retailers currently track. Not only will the items ‘carbon footprint’ be factored in, but also questions like:

Did this T-shirt come from a cotton crop that was sprayed with pesticide? Was excessive packaging used to ship these diapers?

This not only is a win for the eco-friendly community, its a industry game changer. Wal-Mart has had success with initiatives like this before.

Because of Wal-Mart’s leadership in [only selling concentrated detergents], they were able to set a standard for the entire industry,” Mr. Len Sauers (vice president for global sustainability at Procter & Gamble) said. “That opened the door to allow it to progress very, very quickly

walmart organicsOne may also recall when Wal-Mart decided to start carrying organic produce, thereby increasing the volume of organic fruits and vegetables that were grown and lowering the costs to consumers.

To help legitimize the index, they have even brought some big-time environmental organizations onboard like the Environmental Defense Fund to help create the standards. Could this be true, a sustainable Wal-Mart in the making?

Wal-Mart is sending out a questionnaire to each of their suppliers consisting of the following:

Energy and Climate
Reduce energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions

  • Have you measured your corporate greenhouse gas emissions?
  • Have you opted to report your greenhouse gas emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)?
  • What are your total greenhouse gas emissions reported in your most recently completed report?
  • Have you set publicly available greenhouse gas reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?

Material Efficiency
Reduce waste and enhance quality

  • If measured, please report total amount of solid waste generated from the facilities that produce your product(s) for
    Wal-Mart Inc for the most recent year measured.
  • Have you set publicly available solid waste reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?
  • If measured, please report total water use from the facilities that produce your product(s) for Wal-Mart Inc for the most
    recent year measured.
  • Have you set publically available water use reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?

Natural Resources
High quality, responsibly sourced raw materials

  • Have you established publicly available sustainability purchasing guidelines for your direct suppliers that address
    issues such as environmental compliance, employment practices, and product/ingredient safety?
  • Have you obtained 3rd party certifications for any of the products that you sell to Walmart? If so, from the list of certifications below, please select those for which any of your products are, or utilize materials that are, currently

People and Community
Responsible & ethical production

  • Do you know the location of 100% of the facilities that produce your product(s)?
  • Before beginning a business relationship with a manufacturing facility, do you evaluate their quality of production and capacity for production?
  • Do you have a process for managing social compliance at the manufacturing level?
  • Do you work with your supply base to resolve issues found during social compliance evaluations and also document specific corrections and improvements?
  • Do you invest in community development activities in the markets you source from and/or operate within?
Wal-Mart Re-claimed Grease Bio-Diesel Truck

Wal-Mart Re-claimed Grease Bio-Diesel Truck

While participation isn’t mandatory, they have made it clear that their priority will be with the suppliers who comply, and my feeling is that the consumers will be keeping the suppliers without a green label in check.

However you may have felt about Wal-Mart in the past, these changes are sure to impress (or at least catch the interest of) even the most hardcore environmentalist. It is far from perfect, but it is a definite step in the right direction from one of the largest retailers on the planet.

[via Re-Nest from NYTimes]

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