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LONDON -- Wal-Mart's aggressive mandate to improve its image and get credit for politically correct policies continues. As the keynote lecturer at the Prince of Wales's Business and the Environment Programme here yesterday, Lee Scott, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and c.e.o., unveiled "Sustainability 360" -- a companywide emphasis on taking sustainability beyond reducing the company's direct environmental footprint to engaging Wal-Mart's associates, suppliers, communities, and customers.
"Sustainability 360 takes in our entire company -- our customer base, our supplier base, our associates, the products on our shelves, the communities we serve," said Scott. "And we believe every business can look at sustainability in this way. In fact, in light of current environmental trends, we believe they will, and soon."
As an example of this way of working, Scott also announced the company's intention to introduce "Global Innovation Projects" -- one of which is a challenge for Wal-Mart associates and suppliers to start thinking about how to remove nonrenewable energy from the products the company sells.
"Perhaps the most far-reaching opportunity we have with our suppliers is a simple idea with potentially profound consequences," said Scott. "Just think about this: What if we worked with our suppliers to take nonrenewable energy off our shelves and out of the lives of our customers? We could create metrics and share best practices so our suppliers could make products that rely less and less on carbon-based energy."
Recognizing longtime actions in sustainability from U.K. subsidiary, ASDA, Scott highlighted how initiatives taking place at Wal-Mart's operations in the United Kingdom fit in this idea, including reducing packaging on food products by 25 percent and selling more energy-efficient light bulbs than standard bulbs by 2008.
Addressing the different planks of "Sustainability 360," Scott highlighted Wal-Mart's initiative to work with suppliers to reduce packaging by 5 percent by 2013 -- an effort estimated as being equal to removing 213,000 trucks from the road, and saving approximately 324,000 tons of coal and 67 million gallons of diesel fuel per year. He also talked about the company's goal to develop partnerships that help suppliers run more sustainable businesses and factories.
Emphasizing that sustainability is consistent with the company's culture, Scott also discussed the integral role that associates play in helping Wal-Mart reach its objectives.
Scott acknowledged that the journey to a sustainable corporation is long, but stressed all businesses have a role to play. "We all have an opportunity to be more sustainable. But even more, we have a responsibility. We need to be sustainable companies and countries made up of people who live sustainable lives. If we do that, if we do it throughout the coming decades, I believe we will make sustainability...sustainable. And this generation will leave a healthier humanity and a healthier planet to future generations."
The Business and Environment Programme was hosted by the Prince of Wales and attended by government representatives, officials from nongovernmental organizations, and business executives.