On July 16, 2009, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced plans to develop a Sustainability Index, an open and non-proprietary initiative designed objectively to measure the sustainability of products, lower the costs, and improve the quality of the products on retailer shelves. To develop the Index, Wal-Mart has initiated the development of a global consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs and government agencies from around the world to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products - from raw material extraction to disposal.. Wal-Mart's goal is to work with this Consortium, other retailers and the top-tier suppliers of at least 20 product categories, to establish the criteria needed to determine the sustainability of a product in these categories thoughout its lifecycle by December 31, 2012.
To accomplish this, Wal-Mart will work with the Consortium to create the criteria for the open database and convene the key players of these categories to help them successfully research, create tools, and input their own data. With this data, Wal-Mart will be able to score the sustainability of products in a transparent manner that will enable customers and institutional buyers make educated purchasing decisions.
Additionally, Wal-Mart will support the Consortium in helping to add new members and contributors. Specifically, they will be working to add several additional member universities from across the globe, and additional contributors from retail, consumer products, NGO's etc. New members will be important because the efforts for each of these at least 20 categories will require a great deal of collaboration. Accordingly, new consortium members and contributors will be able to add expertise and scientific research as we work to populate the open, public database.
In 2005, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. set three aspirational goals to improve the sustainability of its business: to be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy, create zero waste, and sell products that sustain resources and the environment. Although Wal-Mart has made progress toward this last goal, they recognize the need for a tool that helps retailers and other corporations throughout the supply chain gauge the sustainability of a product throughout its entire lifecycle - from the point of the collection of raw materials to its end-of-life. Wal-Mart believes that a tool of this type could be used to help customers make more informed decisions on the products they purchase at the point-of-sale in stores.
On July 16, 2009 at their Sustainability Milestone Meeting, Wal-Mart announced plans to develop a Sustainability Index, a new initiative designed to measure the sustainability of products, lower costs and improve the quality of the products on their shelves. Designed to be rolled out over the next five years, the Index will allow the supply chain to see, measure and understand the full impact throughout the lifecycle of the products consumers buy. The Index should create a more transparent supply chain, drive product innovation and ultimately provide consumers the information they need to assess the sustainability of products.
During the meeting, Wal-Mart also briefly discussed the ways that they would start moving the development of the Index forward. First, they have asked their top-tier suppliers to the U.S. to answer 15 questions that will help assess their sustainability by October 1, 2009. The questions will focus on four key areas of a product - energy and climate, natural resources, material efficiency, and people and community. Wal-Mart will work with other suppliers to determine appropriate timelines for the completion of their questionnaires. Second, Wal-Mart is in the process of developing a consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers, NGOs, and government agencies from around the world to develop a global database of information on the lifecycle of products - from raw materials extraction to disposal. Wal-Mart has provided the initial funding for the Sustainability Index Consortium, and are encouraging other retailers, suppliers and NGOs to join the effort. Currently, Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas have agreed to jointly administer the Consortium.
While efforts are underway to build the Consortium, there remains greater need for increased membership to drive the collection of data and knowledge to drive the development of the database and platform which the Index will be based upon. CGI could be a powerful means of asking for the commitment needed from the broad retail and consumer products industry to effectively gather the data for these intial products.
The first step in developing the Index took place just after the announcement when we distributed a Supplier Sustainability Assessment to our suppliers. The assessment asked suppliers 15 questions on four areas, including energy and climate, natural resources, material efficiency, and people and community. Using the information gained from this assessment, we are identifying the suppliers who are instrumental to our sustainability progress, as well as those who need greater support in building a more sustainable business.