Walmart highlights sustainability efforts
May expo offers packaging suppliers stage for their LATEST ADVANCES.
John Kalkowski -- Packaging Digest, 3/5/2012 9:19:00 AM
Since the retailing giant Walmart announced its aspirational sustainability goals in 2005, the company has put its head down and gotten to work, according to Brooke Buchannan, director of sustainability communications. "There may not have been a ton of announcements since then," she says, "but sustainability has been integrated into everday business."
Many of the company's sustainability achievements will be highlighted when Walmart unveils its Global Responsibility Report, scheduled for release on April 16. That will be followed by the company's seventh annual Sustainable Packaging Expo, to be held May 7-9 at the John Q. Hammons Convention in Rogers, AR, just miles from the Walmart headquarters in nearby Bentonville. This year's event is expected to draw about 200 exhibitors and nearly 2,000 participants, says Ron Sasine, Walmart senior director for private label packaging.
Sasine says that for the first time, Walmart will hold the meeting of its Sustainability Value Network before the expo gets underway. He also says they've adjusted the schedule for educational sessions to allow attendees more time to explore developments on the show floor.
Sasine says past exhibitors have received information on this year's program. However, he adds that he welcomes additional exhibitor applications. Packaging companies interested in exhibiting can contact him at email@example.com
The expo's target audience includes Walmart and Sam's Club associates and buyers, as well as representatives of consumer products goods companies and their packaging suppliers, Sasine says. Each exhibitor is a current supplier to Walmart. All of them have been asked to relate the details of how one of their products has contributed to a sustainable practice, with before-and-after details. Their summaries are audited to ensure they clearly communicate the success story and comply with the FTC's "Green Guidelines."
From shoe boxes to children's toys and from deli meat to toothpaste, Walmart is packing in the savings-both for the environment and the bottom line. To achieve its goal of reducing packaging across its supply chain by 5 percent globally by 2013 and to support its effort to create zero waste, Walmart is working with its suppliers to rethink product packaging.
The company has rolled out a sustainable packaging scorecard across the globe for its suppliers to focus on the seven R's of sustainable packaging-remove, reduce, reuse, recycle, renew, revenue and read. To measure packaging impact, Walmart focuses on the customer by using GHG/CMUM (consumers' meaningful unit of measure) units, which takes into account greenhouse gas (GHG)emissions required for each unit of packaging material that is required for each product's usage.
Some recent initiatives include:
• Creating a smaller footprint: Thirty million replenishment boxes-containers that ship loose footwear not sold in traditional shoeboxes-flowed through Walmart's U.S. supply chain annually, coming from suppliers in various shapes and sizes. Walmart tackled the waste by taking over box production, mandating a single type of material and redesigning shoe boxes to use 43 percent less paper. The more efficient boxes saved 28 percent in costs and in the first 10 months of 2011, about 14.4 million boxes were produced, saving 692 tons of paper. That's more than 2,500 trees. Other environmental savings? More than 400,000 pounds of solid waste, 2.4 million gallons of water and 14,500 million BTUs.
• Saying goodbye to wire ties: Almost everyone has struggled to get their child's brand-new toy out of the box because of all the complicated wire ties used to contain toys in their packaging. Walmart wanted to do something about the issue while creating a more sustainable solution, so they led the toy industry in both national and private brands to replace the frustrating ties with ones that are easier to remove and use natural fibers. By using a more sustainable material and reducing the number of ties needed to keep toys in their packaging, the initiative eliminated, since 2010, 1.6 billion feet of wire from Walmart products alone.
• Ordering better sandwich meat: Walmart's branded deli buyers worked with supplier partners at Cargill to reduce packaging of the Castle Wood Reserve deli meats sold at Sam's Clubs by 14 percent. By decreasing the packaging waste, 24 fewer tons of corrugated material are going to landfills and seven fewer truckloads are stocking Sam's Clubs every year. Not only does the packaging reduction save gas, paperboard, plastic and shelf space, but consumers also are reaping the rewards. The smaller containers are easier to store and trap less air, leaving their deli meat fresher, longer.
• Toasting to sustainability: Walmart successfully partnered with The Wine Group to lightweight its Oak Leaf brand wine bottles to reduce waste and cost. Weighing in at 37 percent less than the previous bottle, the new bottles reduced packaging overall weight by more than 27 percent, resulting in 280 fewer trucks needed to supply them to stores. With a reduced carbon footprint, savings are passed on to the consumer. Walmart was able to reduce retail price by nearly 7 percent.
• Getting outside the box: ASDA, Walmart's U.K subsidiary, has reduced the weight of its product packaging by 27 percent since 2005. One of several packaging wins was selling cartonless ASDA-brand toothpaste. By removing a traditional toothpaste carton, ASDA realized a 50 percent reduction in packaging. This innovation earned "Highly Commended" Sustainable Pack of the Year recognition at the U.K. Packaging Awards in 2010.