SUPPLY-CHAIN OPERATIONS: Wal-Mart Stores

In November 2007, Wal-Mart Stores released a top-to-bottom update of its sustainability efforts. The overview looked at company initiatives ranging from improving operational efficiencies through packaging and waste reduction, to reducing energy usage and promoting the idea to customers, to upgrading employee health benefits. This comprehensive approach continues to impress many in the industry, if

In November 2007, Wal-Mart Stores released a top-to-bottom update of its sustainability efforts. The overview looked at company initiatives ranging from improving operational efficiencies through packaging and waste reduction, to reducing energy usage and promoting the idea to customers, to upgrading employee health benefits.

This comprehensive approach continues to impress many in the industry, if for no other reason than the global retailer's ability to create a ripple effect up and down the supply chain.

“Our research shows that roughly 40% of shoppers are specifically motivated by environmental issues, so any manufacturer or retailer not taking measures to reduce their impact will be at a disadvantage,” said Jim Wisner, president of Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill.

With more than 7,000 stores of all sizes open around the world, Wal-Mart has long been an expert in distribution efficiencies. The mega retailer has led the way in packaging reduction efforts by calling on more than 60,000 worldwide suppliers to reduce their overall material use. Wal-Mart's Packaging Network aims to be “packaging neutral” by 2025.

Customers are seeing results on the shelves: All liquid laundry detergent is now concentrated, and some 75 of Wal-Mart's private-label products have been redesigned to eliminate the PVC packaging previously used to ship each item.

The retailer estimates that the efforts prevent approximately 667,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, keep 213,000 trucks off the road and save 66.7 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.