Walmart aims to lead by example

Lawrence Aylward
Editor In Chief
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Walmart is working its U.S. private brands suppliers to achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025..

"Sustainability.” It’s a big word, and it comes with a lot of responsibility. Sustainability is about:

• reducing food and packaging waste;

• using leftover food to help feed the poor;

• reducing the carbon footprint;

• removing undesirable chemicals and ingredients from food and beverage products to make them healthier;

• ensuring that suppliers and producers practice environmental stewardship and animal husbandry;

• offering products that are inclusive for all people;

• and treating employees fairly and with dignity while compensating them adequately.

Sustainability, simply, is responsibility on myriad levels associated with products and services.

In previous issues of Store Brands Today, we've looked at what several grocery retailers are doing to be more sustainable. These vignettes may focus on one or only a few things that retailers are doing. In most cases the retailers are doing much more and have made sustainability a significant component of their every-day businesses.

Today, we look at Walmart.

Walmart is using its extensive private brands program to make a statement about its commitment to reduce plastic waste.

Last February the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer announced at its annual supplier forum that it’s working with its U.S. private brands suppliers to achieve 100% recyclable, reusable or industrially compostable packaging for its private brand packaging by 2025. The move will impact more than 30,000 SKUs. Walmart says it’s encouraging national brand suppliers to set similar packaging goals.

“As a global retailer that has set an ambitious aspirational goal to create zero waste, we fully recognize that reducing plastic waste by increasing packaging circularity is an area where Walmart can lead,” says Laura Phillips, Walmart’s senior vice president for global sustainability.

Walmart is targeting at least 20% post-consumer recycled content in private brand packaging by 2025. It also wants to label 100% of food and consumable private brand packaging with the How2Recycle label by 2022. Last year more than 800 Walmart private label suppliers participated in How2Recycle.

The move is consistent with three goals Walmart established nearly 15 years ago: to create zero waste, operate with 100% renewable energy, and sell products that sustain resources and the environment. What’s happened in the past 18 months, according to Phillips, is Walmart’s ambition to create zero waste has been applied with increased intensity to plastics.

“It’s a big challenge. We are just getting started and there is more to do, but we are excited about the actions we are taking,” Phillips said recently during a panel discussion held in Bentonville called “Technology Enabling Sustainability in Retail.”

There is an element of common sense to sustainability, according to Phillips, who said, “If we don’t need plastic, let’s just not use it, or reduce it. And where we can, let’s make it recyclable.”

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