BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores here said last week it has begun developing a new “sustainability index” that it hopes will make it easier for consumers to evaluate the environmental and societal impact of the products it sells.
“Customers want and expect businesses to be transparent,” said Mike Duke, Wal-Mart's chief executive officer, in a webcast on the new initiative.
Wal-Mart said its objective was to spur the creation of a vast database that would include the complete “lifecycle” of products so that eventually consumers would be able to easily ascertain the sustainability of every product they purchase.
Duke also stressed that Wal-Mart would not “create or own” the index, but would simply spur its creation. It is putting together a consortium of universities that would work with suppliers, government and non-government agencies to gather the “knowledge of the global supply chain” for the creation of the database. In the meantime it has sent a poll to its largest U.S. suppliers — due back to Wal-Mart by Oct. 1 — that asks 15 questions about their sustainability practices.
Wal-Mart said that by taking the lead on this initiative, the company better positions itself among younger demographics.
“This is our opportunity to connect with the next generation,” said John Fleming, chief merchandising officer, Wal-Mart. “We may never be cool, but we care, and we can make a difference.”