Wal-Mart to expand Sustainability Index

by Keith Nunes
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BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to expand its Sustainability Index beyond the United States in 2014, the retailer announced during its Global Sustainability Milestone Meeting on Sept. 12. Wal-Mart Chile and Wal-Mart Mexico will launch the Index in their respective markets in 2014, according to the company. South Africa’s Massmart already has begun to include key Index questions in its supplier sustainability surveys.

“We’ve reached an acceleration point where we are moving from measurement to results,” said Mike Duke, president and CEO. “We’re starting to really drive progress with the Index.”

The Sustainability Index has been rolled out across 200 product categories, and to more than 1,000 suppliers, Wal-Mart said. By the end of this year, it is estimated the Index will expand to include more than 300 product categories and as many as 5,000 suppliers.

Based on data from the Index, Wal-Mart said it has been working with suppliers, nonprofits, industry experts and government to develop and implement solutions that address critical “hot spots” and opportunities across the global supply chain. For example, in an effort to increase the demand for recyclable plastics, the retailer is working to ensure beverage products, dairy creamers and fruit such as berries are packaged using recyclable plastic.

Wal-Mart also is requiring suppliers who use commodity grains, such as corn, wheat and soy as ingredients, to develop a fertilizer optimization plan that outlines goals to improve performance based on Index research. Through the program, the company said it and its suppliers have the potential to reduce fertilizer use on 14 million acres of farmland in the United States by 2020.

Wal-Mart began developing its Sustainability Index in 2009 and in 2011 introduced the program.
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