Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke

Wal-Mart CEO Mike Duke

US retail giant Wal-Mart has joined Marks and Spencer (M&S) by launching a barrage of green commitments relating to suppliers and transportation.

Both companies have rolled out their sustainability commitments with great aplomb recently, keen to ensure their efforts do not go unnoticed. But they are also hoping that greener business practices will result in bottom line growth and better efficiencies.

Mike Duke, Walmart president and CEO, says: "Reducing carbon in the life cycle of our products will often mean reducing energy use. That will mean greater efficiency and, with the rising cost of energy, lower costs, making our business stronger and more competitive."

Wal-Mart is aiming to eliminate 20m metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its global supply chain by the end of 2015 - the equivalent emissions of 3.8m cars each year.

The company says its supply chain is many times larger than its operational footprint and represents a more impactful opportunity to reduce emissions.

M&S, meanwhile, is launching 80 major new commitments in a bid to move its Plan A eco initiative further into the mainstream.

Among these goals is converting all its food, clothing and home items into 'Plan A products', so that each carries at least one sustainable or ethical quality, by converting 50% of products by 2015 and 100% by 2020.

Sir Stuart Rose, chairman of M&S says: "Since we launched our eco plan, Plan A, in 2007 we've reduced our environmental impact, developed new sustainable products and services, helped improve the lives of people in our local communities and saved around GBP50m by being more efficient.

"We've now set ourselves the ambitious target of becoming the world's most sustainable retailer by 2015, so that we lead the way in making a positive contribution to the environment and society across everything we do and everything we sell."

While both companies are lining themselves up as environmental stewards, the commitments are certain to drip down to suppliers.

For instance, M&S wants to create 200 'Plan A' factories with either ethical or environmental features, while Wal-Mart's tool for monitoring factories cut more than 3,300 metric tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and saved suppliers $200,000 in energy costs in its first year.

It seems retailers are keener than ever to forge close supplier partnerships, knowing the benefits of a green supply chain are well worth working for.