Wal-Mart launches online database for cutting packaging

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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has launched an online database for its thousands of suppliers to help them meet targets for cutting packaging waste starting next year, one of a series of green efforts by the world's largest retailer.

Wal-Mart executives said Monday the "packaging scorecard" will help suppliers calculate the net environmental effect of a mix of factors, including the fuel needed to make and transport packaging materials and whether they use recycled components or not.

The upshot is a single number that gives the supplier a ranking against others making similar products, said Matt Kistler, vice president of marketing at Sam's Club and the head of Wal-Mart's packaging reduction efforts.

Wal-Mart last year set a goal of cutting overall packaging by 5 percent by 2013, saying it would work with its 66,000 suppliers to start the reductions from 2008. The target is part of a broader effort to reduce energy use and waste, cut greenhouse gases and sell more sustainable products.

"The packaging scorecard helps everyone make better decisions that are good for business, our customers and the environment," Kistler said.

Kistler was speaking to reporters at the start of a two-day packaging fair, where exhibitors showed hundreds of Wal-Mart suppliers such innovations as pallets made from recycled paper, instead of wood, and waterproof coatings for cardboard boxes that are made from recycled plastic, instead of petroleum, and will break down again in a landfill, unlike traditional laminates.

The scorecard database went live last month as part of Retail Link, Wal-Mart's vast proprietary database of daily sales data that suppliers can access. Wal-Mart has given suppliers until Feb. 1, 2008, to enter all their packaging data.

After that, the rankings will be used by Wal-Mart's buyers to help decide which products to buy, along with traditional criteria such as price and profitability, Kistler said.

In the first month, 2,268 suppliers have entered their packaging data, he said.

One of Wal-Mart's union-backed critics, Wal-Mart Watch, said Wal-Mart's green efforts were a good start but need to go further.

"Wal-Mart should continue to exert its influence over its supply chain, but it should also review its store-siting policies and a business footprint that emits 250,000,000 tons of greenhouse gases each year," Wal-Mart Watch spokesman Nu Wexler said. The greenhouse gas figure was from Wal-Mart's own estimates for its operations and its supply chain.

Source : Today's THV

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