Blog: Leonie BarrieWal-Mart starting a green scorecard?

Leonie Barrie | 26 September 2007

Retail giant Wal-Mart earlier this week revealed groundbreaking plans to get some of its key suppliers to measure – and reduce – their carbon footprint. The main thrust of its focus, initially at least, is on product lines that include DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda, but apparel and footwear producers would be wise to take note too.

The starting point for the announcement is Wal-Mart’s goal of transforming itself into a more environmentally friendly company. It’s been battered by allegations about its employment and business practices, and has already made a number of attempts to shore up its image and reputation by introducing green initiatives. And it certainly has the scale and buying power to really enforce change across its network of 60,000 suppliers if it really wants to.

But there are more potentially far-reaching undercurrents, too, that might not be so widely welcomed. As it tracks the energy use of its suppliers, will it use the results in its purchasing decisions? Will it rate its suppliers by their carbon footprints? And will those that don't measure up get the chop? Will it stop doing business with the worst polluting companies, even if they provide the lowest-cost goods? And will consumers ultimately have to choose between an environmentally friendly product and one they can afford to buy?

So far, Wal-Mart isn't saying – but it’s likely the issue won’t end here.


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