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Wal-Mart launches plan to reduce packaging

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. caused quite a stir when it put the heat on its suppliers to incorporate RFID to create supply-chain pedigrees.
FILED IN:  Sustainability  > Strategy

In late September, the Bentonville, AR-based retailer announced plans to measure its 60,000 global suppliers to develop packaging and conserve natural resources. Scheduled to begin in 2008, the initiative is projected to reduce overall packaging by 5% and save the company $3.4 billion.

“Packaging is where consumers and suppliers come together and can have a real impact both on business efficiency and environmental stewardship,” says H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart's CEO. “Even small changes to packaging have a significant ripple effect. Improved packaging means less waste, fewer materials used, and savings on transportation, manufacturing, shipping, and storage.”

By November 1, Wal-Mart expected to introduce a packaging scorecard to more than 2,000 private-label suppliers. The scorecard will be used as a tool in making purchasing decisions based on packaging alternatives or sustainable packaging materials.

On February 1, 2007, tools and processes will be made available to all of the company's global suppliers. For 12 months, these suppliers will learn and share results. By 2008, Wal-Mart will measure and recognize its entire worldwide supply base for using less packaging, more effective packaging materials, and sourcing the materials more efficiently, all through a packaging scorecard.

A company press release says, “Wal-Mart's packaging vision began to form when the company partnered with suppliers to improve packaging on its private-label Kid Connection toy line last year. By reducing the packaging on fewer than 300 toys, Wal-Mart saved 3,425 tons of corrugated materials, 1,358 barrels of oil, 5,190 trees, 727 shipping containers, and $3.5 million in transportation costs.

“Wal-Mart Sustainable Packaging Value Network, a group of 200 leaders in the global packaging industry, is leading the project. This group includes representatives from government, non-governmental agencies, academia, and industry,” says the company.

—Jim Butschli

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