NEW YORK — Sounding the theme of environmental awareness, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Monday that it has begun a project to measure the amount of energy used to create products across its huge supply chain.
The world's largest retailer, in partnership with the London-based Carbon Disclosure Project, will study the procurement, manufacturing and distribution process.
"We're going to be looking at new ways we can continue to work with our suppliers on sustainability," John Fleming, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer of the Wal-Mart Stores division, said during the fifth Global Forum of the CDP held here. "One area is energy and greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global climate change. We have to drive costs out of the system so we can pass savings on to our customers."
The CDP concluded in its annual report that the world's largest companies are making climate change a higher priority. The nonprofit environmental organization is supported by 315 institutional investors, including Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs Group.
Fleming's remarks followed those of former president Bill Clinton, who said, "Climate change is [going to be] this decade's source of new jobs...almost every one of the commitments [made by corporations] in the climate change area are good business."
Wal-Mart, which has come under fire from critics on issues ranging from health benefits to union opposition, has started a pilot program with the goal of finding ways to drive energy efficiency. The project focuses on seven product categories, including DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, soda and vacuum cleaners.
"Two years ago, our chief executive officer H. Lee Scott made a commitment," Fleming explained. "He said Wal-Mart was going to become a more environmentally friendly company and he laid out three goals, which were: being supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, creating zero waste and selling products that sustain resources and the environment."
Fleming conceded that Wal-Mart has yet to accomplish those objectives. "What I can say is that these goals are driving our business and our thinking each and every day," he said, adding that customers are "looking for quality merchandise and a good shopping experience. Across the board, our customers need unbeatable prices. To a Wal-Mart customer saving a dollar means something. When it comes to sustainability, we want to deliver that same value."Wal-Mart's goal of reducing packaging by 5 percent by 2013 would have the same impact as removing 213,000 trucks from the roads, saving 324,000 tons of coal and saving 67 million gallons of diesel fuel per year, Fleming said, citing the business advantage as "a pretty big one. We believe this effort can save the global supply chain $11 billion and, specifically, our supply chain more than $3.4 billion."
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