Ten years ago, Walmart devised a zero waste target across all their operations in the hope that they would eliminate waste, improve packaging and promote recycling. So far, more than 81% of the materials which are distributed in US stores are diverted from landfill sites. Walmart have had even better success in Japanese and UK stores where this figure stands at 90%. These statistics show the company’s dedication towards reducing their environmental harm; as one of the biggest multinational corporations generating the largest revenue in the world this is particularly important. There are 11,573 Walmart stores worldwide so their corporate responsibility is an important part to such a large scale operation.
Ten years on, the supermarket giant is looking to restore this passion for sustainability by developing three main goals: to optimise design, source sustainably and support recycling. In recent studies, Walmart ( @Walmart ) discovered that 90% of customer wanted to recycle but 67% indicate that the task would be easier if the product was better labelled. This has inspired the firm to launch a new project to improve their packaging efforts. Despite the green push, Walmart has reassured their customers that their competitive prices will not be beaten.
At their Walmart Sustainable Packaging Summit last week in Akansas, the retailer presented their Sustainable Packaging Playbook. The playbook outlines key guidelines and provides the information that packaging suppliers can use as a reference.
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“Packaging is an essential part of the products that we sell,” said Zach Freeze, Walmart’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Sustainability as reported by Sustainable Brands. “In the playbook, we talk about recyclability and making sure that messaging is clear to the customer. For us, it’s all about clear guidance. We want to provide clear guidance to our suppliers about optimizing design and supporting recycling and we want to make it easier for our customers to recycle packaging.”
The playbook has also been designed to allow suppliers to see the cost incentives from producing less waste. Walmart will begin using an independent labelling system to provide more consumer awareness for recycling their products. Additionally, brand owners will have stricter guidelines to encourage environmental responsibility. The supermarket is requesting that suppliers go one step further than the standardised recycling icons promoted by official environmental bodies. Walmart have devised new ways to provide unique customer friendly labelling. “Customers want to be able to recycle, but some are confused" about whether a package is recyclable if it doesn’t have a recycling symbol or language on it, Freeze said. “Clear language and a clear symbol make this easier for consumers.”
Ashley Hall, Walmart’s Senior Manager for Sustainability, Consumables and Health and Wellness said: “it is not designed to dead-stop, slow down, hinder the work that we do every day. As new products are coming to market, as a package is being refreshed, we are encouraging our private-label suppliers to use consumer-friendly recycling labels like How2Recycle.”
Walmart support of the circular economy means that they are assisting suppliers and consumers alike to promote recycling in the hope that they will continue the process. The retailer believe that these important efforts will not only improve their impact on the environment, but it will also help drive down supplier costs. It is anticipated that these costs in turn can be felt by the consumer as well as Walmart’s profits.
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