Wal-Mart unveils new genvironmental labelling programme
Wal-Mart has unveiled an environmental labelling programme for the products it carries, in a step that could redefine the design and makeup of consumer goods sold around the world, The Wall Street Journal reported. Wal-Mart plans to tell suppliers they must calculate and disclose the full environmental costs of making their products, then allow Wal-Mart to distil the information into a rating system that customers will see alongside prices for everything from T-shirts to TVs. The retailer said the new initiative represents a bold new step in its efforts to reduce energy consumption, cut waste and introduce sustainable products.
The retailer estimated it could take half a decade or longer to implement the system, although outside experts involved in the product said it could start sooner, perhaps as early as 2011. Wal-Mart’s 100,000 suppliers will bear the cost of the company’s environmental mandates; however, it said it was premature to estimate the cost to suppliers. Wal-Mart insisted there will be no exemptions.
Asked what relationship Wal-Mart would maintain with suppliers that don't supply the data, Matt Kistler, the retailer's Senior Vice President of Sustainability, said bluntly: "We probably don't have one."
Wal-Mart executives said they plan to develop labelling easily understood by consumers. "I envision the day that you look at a piece of apparel, you flip a tag over, and learn about how sustainable it really is," Wal-Mart Chief Merchandising Officer John Fleming said. "It would be like nutritional labelling is today. But there is some standardization that needs to take place."
The company's goal is to build what it terms a comprehensive sustainability index that measures the environmental impact of each product Wal-Mart sells. For example, an index might flag how much each contributes to global warming and if it contains wood harvested in ways that deplete natural stocks. www.planetretail.net
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