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Daily News Archive
From November 1, 2006                                                                                                        

Wal-Mart Announces New Supplier Incentives
(Beyond Pesticides, November 1, 2006) On October 30, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced its latest campaign to develop a greener business profile and reintroduce itself to customers alienated by its business practices. The “Preferred Chemical Principles” campaign will establish protocols for Wal-Mart’s suppliers to report their chemical uses and voluntarily replace them with more sustainable substances.

According to the company’s press release, it will work with suppliers to substitute 20 chemicals of concern over two years. The Principles will “establish a clear set of preferred chemical characteristics for product ingredients.” To kick off the Principles, Wal-Mart will announce the first three chemicals in its program at its Chemical Intensive Product Network’s (CIP) Molecule-to-Molecule meeting. The CIP participates in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Design for the Environment Formulator Partnership.

The first three chemicals are two pesticides, propoxur and permethrin, and a cleaning agent, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPE). Wal-Mart’s plan for the voluntary phase-out of these chemicals by suppliers comes in three steps:

1) Awareness – where participating suppliers will be given a period to identify for Wal-Mart any of their products that currently use one of the priority chemicals as ingredients;

2) Development of an Action Plan – where suppliers communicate to Wal-Mart their plans regarding the Priority Chemicals in their products; and

3) Recognition and Reward – where Wal-Mart acknowledges the suppliers who participate in this effort.

John Westling, senior vice president and general merchandise manager, comments on the program, “One of our environmental goals at Wal-Mart is to sell products that sustain our resources and our environment . . . We anticipate that our efforts will encourage our suppliers and their suppliers to innovate new product formulations that will be better for our customers and for the environment.”

The retail giant, often regarded as the leading aggressor against local businesses and one of the most powerful companies of its kind in the country, has found itself often maligned for lack of employee benefits and huge volume of resources used in its global operations, among other things. Its latest efforts to reduce packaging and the toxicity of its products have received some praise from environmental groups, albeit with reservation.

Lois Gibbs, executive director for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice issued a statement saying, “We welcome Wal-Mart’s efforts to phase out highly hazardous chemicals in consumer products. However, [we] urge Wal-Mart to expand the list of priority chemicals to include PVC, set concrete timeframes and benchmarks, and recognize that sustainability must include workers’ benefits and wages both domestically and throughout the supply chain. Without concrete benchmarks, any initiative is toothless.”

This latest announcement comes on the heels of a series of promises by the company to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions and reduce solid waste from stores nationwide. Watchdog group Wal-Mart Watch says, “If Wal-Mart makes good on its promises to use 100% renewable energy and produce zero waste through its supply chain, the positive effects on global warming, the use of toxic chemicals in production and sustainable product sourcing could be tremendous.”

For Wal-Mart’s sustainability overview, click here.