Wal-Mart launches online shop that features green products, suppliers

Markets Associated Press

Wal-Mart is launching an online shop on its site that aims to help customers find products that are good for the environment from manufacturers that have been leaders in sustainability.

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The portal, which features more than 12,000 products in 80 different product categories like toys and printers, comes six years after the world's largest retailer launched its own index that rates suppliers' impact on the environment. That index was developed in collaboration with The Sustainability Consortium, an independent third-party organization of academic-based scientists.

The site is launching Tuesday and the products will be marked by a green badge. The items are not being sold at a premium, says Rob Kaplan, Wal-Mart's director of product sustainability.

As part of their joint efforts, they have worked with more than 100 suppliers, including Unilever and Hewlett Packard, and several nonprofit organizations to create the index.

The Sustainability Index analyzes and gathers information about suppliers' strategies for overseeing the social and environmental impact of the entire manufacturing process and had been a tool that was used for Wal-Mart and its suppliers. Now, that information is available to anyone and translated in layman's terms.

In a statement, Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce division, said, "Our customers can trust us to work with suppliers who have an ongoing commitment to both sustainability and affordability."

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Products marked with the badge show that their supplier ranks as best among other suppliers in that product category, based on self-reported responses to surveys developed by The Sustainability Coalition.

Wal-Mart says the badge isn't specific to the individual product's social or environmental footprint. For example, an assortment of HP ink cartridges are badged because the company minimizes emissions and energy when the product is used, and cartridges can be recycled, among other factors.

Unilever says it redesigned the packaging of its "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" spreads, resulting in a new, rectangular shape that is more space-efficient in the refrigerator, reusable and recyclable where facilities exist. Following the entire portfolio overhaul, the redesign will eliminate about 552,000 pounds of plastic from the waste stream per year, the company says.