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Flexo Sustainable : Winter 2008
Smart Packaging To Wal-Mart, It Means Environmental Sustainability By Amy Zettlemoyer G ood things come in small packages; but great things come in smart packages. Deodorant used to be sold to consumers in cardboard boxes, just like toothpaste is today. Remember? Years ago, realizing that this was an inefficient use of resources and shelf space, we at Wal-Mart worked with our suppliers to eliminate those boxes altogether. Eliminating the boxes meant our suppliers could ship more product in smaller containers and in fewer shipments, saving them time, money and resources. This added efficiency meant lower prices for our customers, who generated less waste in their homes by not having to throw away the unnecessary boxes. And today, no one sells deodorant in cardboard boxes; just one change to one product achieved dramatic results. Examples like this abound at Wal-Mart, because we believe that being a successful business and a responsible steward of the environment are not mutually exclusive goals. We see environmental sustainability as more than just the right thing to do. We see it as a business imperative and as a natural extension of our mission as a company: to provide value to our customers through efficiency and conscientious supply-chain management. Today, just like in years past, packaging is a key component of our sustainability initiatives. It offers us the opportunity to make changes that are minimally apparent to the customer, but that have an enormous impact on our world—and, as a company, on our bottom line. EfficiEncy LEAdErShiP Two years ago, our packaging team worked with one of our packaging suppliers to reduce excessive packaging on some of our private-label Kid Connection toy products. By making the packaging just a little bit smaller on this one private brand of toys, over a 12-month period we used 497 fewer containers and gener- 6 Sustainable FLEXO WInTEr 2008 ated freight savings of more than $2.4 million. Additionally, we saved more than 3,800 trees and more than one thousand barrels of oil. Think about this with Wal-Mart’s scale in mind, and begin to imagine the possibilities when this way of thinking is applied to our entire inventory. (Food for thought: The typical Wal-Mart Supercenter carries in excess of 100,000 items.) In an October 2005 speech titled “Twenty-First Century Leadership,” our CEO, Lee Scott, publicly declared that sustainability would be the gateway through which Wal-Mart would become a better, more efficient and more responsible business. In that speech, he outlined several sustainability areas of leadership for the company. They include: Reducing our solid waste from U.S. stores and clubs by 25 per- cent in the next three years Working with suppliers to create less packaging overall Increasing product-package recycling and use of post-consumer material Replacing PVC packaging for our private brands with alternatives that are more sustainable and recyclable, within the next two years PAckAging PrinciPLES Today, we’re carrying out the commitments he made for us, and we’re working to ensure that the packaging on our products is made from renewable or recyclable materials. We’re looking specifically at packaging as a way to significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfills in our communities. The objectives: to better serve our customers by increasing recycling at our stores, offering recycled, sustainable merchandise on our shelves and by utilizing more of these types of products in our own business. www. f le xomag.com