November 23, 2011
SPI Members who sign up for the Sustainable Packaging Advisory Group receive periodic updates on activities related to retailer initiated sustainability activities including Walmart's Sustainable Value Network and Ameripen. Please encourage others to sign up for these informational updates by emailing Patty Long or forward to those inside or outside of your organization who might find value in them.
Below is a brief update from my recent visit to Bentonville, AR. Walmart's Sustainable Value Network (SVN) met at the new Sam's Club headquarters on November 17, 2011.
Since losses from damaged products (primarily food) have become a big issue for Sam's Club, we were treated to an overview of their implementation of the ISTA-6 Series. This internal reporting system seeks to identify which products have high incidences of damage and helps Sam's Club to develop solutions (handling and other packaging solutions) to prevent damages in the future. Walmart pointed out that suppliers pay for damaged goods as they are billed back to the supplier, but Sam's Club also must return the damaged goods to their distribution centers and therefore have to absorb some costs as well. Those costs are ultimately passed on to the consumer through higher prices. Participants encouraged Sam's Club to work to determine where in the supply chain the damages were occurring (distribution center, at club, in transit, etc.)
We also received an update from the Sustainability Consortium. Engaging, researchers, buyers, corporate entities and consumers, the group's mission is to develop and promote science and integrated tools that improve informed decision-making for product sustainability. Essentially, the consortium works on the science that informs sustainability decisions made by Walmart, Sam's Club and affiliated organizations. Founding organizations include corporations, ngo's and even the U.S. EPA -- Alcoa, BASF, Best Buy Disney, Clorox, Coca Cola, SC Johnson, Tetra Pak, World Wildlife Federation and about two dozen others. Academic partners include Arizona State, U of Arkansas, Berkeley, Duke, Michigan, UNH, Harvard, MIT, Michigan, UMass and NC State. The consortium has just established a new campus in the Netherlands, added a board of directors and is using several existing metrics to work on life-cycle analysis projects. There is currently a packaging working group that consists of approximately 35 members that was officially launched March 25, 2011. Contact for the packaging working group is Kelly Scott Unger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leon Hall, Sustainable Packaging Manager at Walmart Canada, reported on plastics recovery and recycling, primarily related to PET Thermoforms. Working with the Retail Council of Canada and NAPCOR (the National Association for PET Container Resources), Walmart Canada has been moving aggressively to deal with two primary impediments (adhesives and fluorescent additives) to PET thermoform recycling.
On a side note, SPI's Thermoforming Committee is also working with NAPCOR on this subject and is poised to award a $10,000 grant to one or several Municipal Recycling Facilities (MRF's) to embark on a pilot program for PET thermoform recycling in the U.S.
Prior to Leon's presentation, he and I had lunch to discuss reporting of recycled materials going back into processing of plastic goods. Walmart is looking to gain that data as they can use it towards their goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 20 million metric tons. As some of you may know, SPI currently conducts a quarterly Processor survey. We will most likely be adding a question related to recycling to that survey. More to follow.
Walmart's current scorecard was designed as a guidance and measurement tool to achieve their goal of reducing packaging by 5 percent by 2013. The scorecard program has faced several challenges related to data collection, scope and processing, report creation and management and costs. The biggest problem, however, has to do with the fact that Walmart now operates in 28 countries and the platform that the Walmart scorecard runs on (Retail Link), is not available in all of those countries. Since, the data is essentially incomplete, Walmart is freezing further development of the current scorecard. Walmart was quick to assure members of the SVN that existing data provided will still be utilized and will serve as a foundation for a new and improved tool.
However, Walmart is essentially going back to the drawing board to create a new tool that:
Finally, Fred Bedore -- senior director of business strategy and sustainability at Walmart – reported on organizational and reporting changes at Walmart that will impact how the existing SVN's fit into the Walmart structure. Essentially, Walmart will be enacting a more global structure that includes an Operations Council (internal Walmart only) and a Sustainable Products Council (that includes subgroups on Packaging, Food and Ag, etc.). The SVN will report up through these subgroups, including a new SVN on chemical intensive products.
I hope this information is helpful. Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can answer any questions or provide additional information.