What Does Walmart Know?

Last week I visited Walmart’s annual sustainable packaging conference in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Last week I visited Walmart’s annual sustainable packaging conference in
Bentonville, Arkansas. I learned that
the first such meeting took place in a conference room in Walmart’s
headquarters just three years ago and 50 people attended. The 2008 version
needed a massive convention center and was bursting at the seams with
suppliers, shippers, and buyers of eco-friendly packaging. You can see where
this trend is going.


So what does Walmart know that the rest of the world may still be trying
to understand? CEO Lee Scott reportedly told his employees and suppliers alike
to reduce wasteful, non-recyclable packaging, because Walmart was paying for
waste twice – – once when the package came in the door, and once when they paid
someone to haul it away from the back of the stores. Walmart saw the
opportunity to benefit the environment and their bottom line at the same time.

But how does the world’s largest retailer cut the waste from so many
products? They computerized a scorecard, evaluating packaging on a variety of
sustainability metrics that flow all the way back down the supply chain.
Vendors get a score for the packaging of each item and are then automatically
directed to suppliers of products that are more sustainable any time the packaging
comes up short.

Walmart took a simple problem – – but a massive one – – and created a
clever, self-perpetuating solution. Bottom line? Less waste, more recyclable
content (that Walmart now separates and recycles at a profit), better
economics, better environment.

Who says you can’t judge a book, or any other product, by its cover?!


About the author

From his youth in Australia to career experiences in Europe, Africa, China and across the United States, Terry has developed expertise in business, farming, education, non-profit, the environment, the arts, and government. A United States Coast Guard-licensed ship captain, Terry has long been drawn to the undersea world, starting in the 1960s with a family-run tropical fish breeding business in Australia and continuing with studies on conch depletion in the Bahamas, manatee populations in Florida coastal waters, and mariculture in the Gulf States with Texas A&M University. On land, Terry managed the largest sheep ranch east of the Mississippi, assisting the University of Minnesota in developing new methods of livestock disease control. Terry also managed a multi-million dollar real estate company, owned a successful recreational services business, and assisted the West African nation of Nigeria with the creation of their first solid waste recycling program. In 1993, Terry founded the Santa Monica BayKeeper and co-founded additional Waterkeeper programs in five California watersheds