Wal-Mart’s Even Greening Its Suppliers

Wal-Mart is looking at its carbon footprint across its entire supply chain.

As part of its larger push to green all of its operations, Wal-Mart has teamed up with the nonprofit Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) to measure the amount of energy used—and greenhouse gases emitted—throughout its entire supply chain, not just at its own facilities. The company will use the data it procures to spur its suppliers to look for ways to make their own manufacturing and distribution processes more energy-efficient and lower carbon dioxide emissions.

According to John Fleming, Wal-Mart’s chief merchandising officer, suppliers will be encouraged to monitor and manage their greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to help the world’s largest retailer reduce its overall carbon footprint. "This is an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing nonrenewable energy from products that Wal-Mart sells," Fleming told reporters.

Wal-Mart is launching the plan by working directly with manufacturers of seven commonly used products: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda. And starting next year, the company will ask its electronics suppliers to fill out a scorecard evaluating their products based on environmental criteria including energy efficiency and durability. "This is an opportunity to spur innovation and efficiency throughout our supply chain that will not only help protect the environment but save people money at the same time," Fleming added.

While critics have been skeptical of Wal-Mart’s overall environmental vision, dubbed Sustainability 360 earlier this year by company management, continued steps in the right direction are winning over some converts, as environmentalists realize what a large impact the company can have on consumers and manufacturers alike. But the service of Adam Werbach, the former youngest-ever president of the Sierra Club, as a Wal-Mart consultant has been controversial in the environmental community.

"This partnership between CDP and Wal-Mart is a very significant milestone in corporate action to mitigate climate change," says Paul Dickinson, CDP’s chief executive. "We look forward to other global corporations following Wal-Mart’s lead."

Sources: Carbon Disclosure Project; Planet Ark