Appliance manufacturers are feeling the pressure to use “green” packaging materials not only from consumers, but from retailers too. Big-box appliance retailers such as Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club are two of the chains tracking the sustainability efforts of its vendors.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. held its second Sustainable Packaging Exposition earlier this year after announcing its Packaging Scorecard program at the Clinton Global Initiative in September 2006. The program rates vendors on their packaging, including greenhouse gas emissions related to production, material value, product-to-packaging ratio, recycled content usage, innovation, the amount of renewable energy used to manufacture the packaging, the recovery of raw materials, and emissions related to transportation of the packaging materials. Vendors receive a score per package relative to their peers in each category, and also suggestions on how to improve.
Wal-Mart says the program will help it achieve a 5% reduction in packaging materials by 2013. “Wal-Mart has made a commitment to reducing waste in packaging in order to sustain our resources and environment and to reduce total system costs,” said Matt Kistler, senior vice president of marketing, research, and insights for Sam’s Club and captain of Wal-Mart’s packaging sustainability network, in a statement. “We are in a unique position to drive positive change in the area of sustainability by working with our suppliers. The packaging scorecard helps everyone make better decisions that are good for business, our customers, and the environment.”
This year, the scorecard is being used to collect initial data from product suppliers as well, and Wal-Mart buyers have started using the results to direct their purchasing decisions.
To help appliance manufacturers and packaging suppliers with new and upcoming retail regulations, the North American Packaging Association (NAPA) created a scorecard “cheat sheet” of sorts for the “7 Rs”—the seven categories that Wal-Mart is rating packaging against on its sustainability scorecards.
The 7 Rs
• Remove Packaging: Eliminate unnecessary packaging, extra boxes, or layers.
• Reduce Packaging: “Right-Size” packages and optimize material strength.
• Reuse Packaging: Use pallets and reusable plastic containers (RPC).
• Renewable Packaging: Use materials made of renewable resources; select biodegradable or compostable materials.
• Recyclable Packaging: Use materials made of highest recycled content without compromising quality.
• Revenue: Achieve all above principles at cost parity or cost savings.
• Read: Get educated on sustainability and how we can all support it.