By  on December 3, 2008

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced a partnership Tuesday with leading sustainability suppliers to assist in the creation of green jobs in the U.S.

The Wal-Mart Green Jobs Council is made up of representatives from the retailer’s divisions, including store operations, real estate, logistics and sustainability. Representatives from suppliers across a variety of industries will participate, the company said.

“We believe that creating green jobs is essential to keeping the United States competitive in the global marketplace,” said Leslie Dach, Wal-Mart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs and government relations. “At Wal-Mart, we believe that, by bringing these companies together and working collaboratively, we can help develop a larger green job workforce in this country.”

The Bentonville, Ark.-based giant has said its companywide sustainability goals include using 100 percent renewable energy, creating zero waste and selling environmentally friendly products. Wal-Mart said it is moving toward these goals by using sustainable sourcing practices such as energy efficiency, waste reduction, renewable energy and life cycle management.

The company recently made its first substantial purchase of wind energy in the U.S., which it said will lead to the creation of green jobs in Texas. The wind power will supply as much as 15 percent of the retailers’ total energy load in about 360 Texas stores and other facilities.

Suppliers at the first meeting of the Wal-Mart Green Jobs Council included General Electric Co., BP Solar International Inc., Dematic Corp., HydroPoint Data Systems, Lennox, ReCold, Schneider Electric, SwissLog Holding AG, Systecon Inc., Thermastor and Zurn.

Wal-Mart touts its organic and sustainable apparel under an earth-friendly section on its Web site. There were only eight items listed on Tuesday, including a Coca-Cola juniors Drink 2 Wear recycled-polyester ladybug T-shirt for $2, and a Hanes organic cotton sleep shirt, tank and pants, priced from $6.98 to $8.98. For babies, there were Kushies biodegradable diaper liners, $11.97 for two rolls; an organic cotton crib bedding set, $119.97, and a Halo organic wearable sleep sack blanket, $49.98.

Asked whether apparel manufacturers would participate in future council meetings, a Wal-Mart spokesman said: “We aren’t ruling out any industry that’s interested in green job creation and growth.”

The retailer’s “most valuable contribution to sustainability efforts would be to ensure that its 1.4 million U.S. workers have jobs with a living wage, quality, affordable health care and better working conditions,” said David Nassar, executive director of Wal-Mart Watch, an advocacy group for workers. “Wal-Mart should get its own house in order before it tries to lead its suppliers and any other participants in workforce matters.”

Wal-Mart said the next Green Jobs Council meeting will be in Washington early next year.

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