Wal-Mart Talks Sustainability With Kroger

Wal-Mart Stores is reaching out to many industry sectors and people to develop its newly announced “Sustainability Index” — and it even held a meeting with competitor Kroger Co. on this topic.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Wal-Mart Stores is reaching out to many industry sectors and people to develop its newly announced “Sustainability Index” — and it even held a meeting with competitor Kroger Co. on this topic.

“I hope that in working with a very large group of individuals we can as an industry come together and form a standard,” Matt Kistler, senior vice president for sustainability at Wal-Mart Stores, said during a conference presentation here Tuesday.

“That’s what we pledged to do in July as a company. This is simply different. Having Wal-Mart go to a meeting at Kroger’s headquarters and talk about the Sustainability Index was a first. And I appreciate that GMA [Grocery Manufacturers Association] helped to make it happen.”

Kistler spoke during a session of the GMA Executive Conference here.

Wal-Mart has said its index is intended to help consumers evaluate the environmental impact of its products. The company said it hopes to help lead the industry in the creation of an extensive database that includes product lifecycles. It is creating a consortium of universities to work with sectors such as suppliers, government and non-government agencies to gather information for the database.

“Working with our supply chain is our greatest opportunity in packaging and other areas,” Kistler said. “There’s not a silver bullet for sustainability; you need to do it collaboratively.”

In assessing which sustainability-oriented products or categories make financial sense for the retailer, Wal-Mart is “looking at total system costs, not just individual product costs,” Kistler added.

“We may pay more for packaging because it ships products better and has recyclable value,” he explained. “So we’re thinking in those new ways.”

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