By  on February 2, 2007

Wal-Mart unveiled a wide-ranging environmental initiative Thursday, dubbed Sustainability 360, that will push suppliers to rethink business practices in packaging, product development and carbon emissions.

“Perhaps the most far-reaching opportunity we have with our suppliers is a simple idea with potentially profound consequences,” said president and chief executive officer H. Lee Scott, addressing an environmental conference in London hosted by Prince Charles. “What if we worked with our suppliers to take nonrenewable energy off our shelves and out of the lives of our customers? We could create metrics and share best practices so our suppliers could make products that rely less and less on carbon-based energy.”

Scott said suppliers were being asked to reduce packaging by 5 percent by 2013, the latest in a string of environmental goals the $312 billion Bentonville, Ark., retailer has set for itself.

The impact of the lighter packaging, and the consequential decreases in shipping costs and fuel consumption, would save Wal-Mart’s supply chain $3.4 billion, Scott said.

Other environmental goals Wal-Mart has set in recent years include reducing waste by 25 percent by 2009, decreasing fuel consumption in its trucking fleet and switching 100 million incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent. In January, the company opened a high-efficiency Supercenter prototype in Kansas City, Mo., that uses 20 percent less energy than a traditional Supercenter. In recent years, Wal-Mart also has begun to merchandise stores differently, boosting stock in organic foods and testing George Baby organic cotton clothing. Scott said the 250 million rolls of store-brand toilet paper sold in its UK subsidiary, ASDA, would be produced using certified-sustainable timber.

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