Reducing packaging, saving fuel

An ambitious strategy is being proposed by Wal-Mart Stores to reduce overall packaging for its goods

An ambitious strategy is being proposed by Wal-Mart Stores to reduce overall packaging for its goods by 5% starting in 2008.

While it doesn’t look like much on paper, that 5% is projected to create huge savings for the company, especially in its transportation operations, said Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott.

In addition to preventing millions of pounds of trash from reaching landfills, the initiative is projected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 667,000 metric tons. That is equal to taking 213,000 trucks off the road annually and saving 66.7 million gallons of diesel fuel from being burned, he said. Scott added that the 5% packaging cut will also generate $3.4 billion in savings for Wal-Mart.

“Packaging is where consumers and suppliers come together and can have a real impact both on business efficiency and environmental stewardship,” he explained. “Even small changes to packaging have a significant ripple effect. Improved packaging means less waste, fewer materials used, and savings on transportation, manufacturing, shipping and storage.”

In November 2006, Scott said Wal-Mart plans to introduce a packaging “scorecard” to more than 2,000 of its private label suppliers. That tool will conglomerate all the information about packaging alternatives or more sustainable packaging materials for consumers. In February 2007, tools and processes will be made available to all of the company’s global suppliers to help design packaging to meet the “scorecard” goals.

By the beginning in 2008, Wal-Mart plans to measure and recognize the entire worldwide supply base for using less packaging, utilizing more effective materials in packaging, and sourcing these materials more efficiently through its packaging scorecard.

“When you bring the capabilities of the entire supply chain together, the ability to make a difference really pops,” Scott stressed. “There’s a multiplier effect. Instead of just looking at what Wal-Mart can do alone, we have the opportunity to inspire thousands of companies and millions of customers, as well.”

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