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Wal-Mart launches Sustainability Index

By dint of its sheer size, pretty much everything Wal-Mart does is important. So the long-anticipated launch of the Wal-Mart Sustainability Index — a company-led project to evaluate all of the suppliers whose products appear on Wal-Mart’s shelves — has met with a huge amount of scrutiny.

The first version of the index is a simple 15-question scorecard (available here) broken into four sections: Energy and Climate, Material Efficiency, Natural Resources, and People and Community. For example, here are the questions devoted to climate change:

> 1. Have you measured your corporate greenhouse gas emissions?
> 2. Have you opted to report your greenhouse gas emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP)?
> 3. What are your total greenhouse gas emissions reported in your most recently completed report?
> 4. Have you set publicly available greenhouse gas reduction targets? If yes, what are those targets?

Pretty basic stuff, but having this information compiled in a single public database would be useful first step in evaluating the environmental impact of a huge range of products. However, product-level information is still many years off. For the time being, the scorecard focuses only on companies. Joel Makower comments:

> Do such shortcomings render the Walmart Sustainability Index as greenwash? No. This is a solid first effort. It’s important to note that over the past year, Walmart engaged some 20 universities, a handful of environmental activist groups, associations like Business for Social Responsibility, many of its key suppliers, and a small army of consultants. Patagonia’s iconoclastic founder, Yvon Chounaird, has played a role. It’s gone through a great deal of thinking and more than a few iterations. This was not some slap-dash effort.

Developing the Sustainability Index will be an iterative process, so the most important question regarding its future impact is really just how committed Wal-Mart is to developing, refining, and publicizing the information they gather. At the moment, they seem quite serious about expanding their ruthless pursuit of supplier efficiency to encompass greener goals.

Take the first step.

Start small. Be conscious of the impact your actions have on the environment and figure out what you can do to lessen the blow. Calculate, conserve, and offset.

For businesses, our Corporate Sustainability Plans can help you with your emission reduction goals.

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