Wal-Mart brings sustainability

13 November 2006

What a year! Who could ever say that the converting business stands still?

I recently spent a week in Chicago to take a look at the Pack Expo and CPP shows. CPP, co-located and almost within the materials and containers section of Pack Expo, certainly benefited from the move. It was a huge improvement over the Vegas fiasco and exhibitors I spoke to were happy for its future.

The PMMI exhibition is usually a great way to see what's happening in the USA on the packaging front. I wasn't disappointed.

Highlight of the show was the keynote address from Matt Kistler, vice president of package and product innovations Wal-Mart Sam's Club.

Here in Europe we spend months, even years, nay decades, trying to sort out packaging and environmental legislation. In the USA it appears it has taken the world's largest retailer with encouragement from ex-President Clinton and his Foundation, help from a group of 200 leaders from the global packaging industry and the word “sustainability”, just months to come up with an alternative. The Packaging Scorecard Tool and associated Packaging Supplier Virtual Trade Show (where the converters come in) is not only designed to assist Wal-Mart reach its stated environmental goal of a five per cent reduction in packaging by 2013, but is also of benefit for its business and its suppliers' businesses. There can never be total agreement on the balances put on each material or package, but everyone, including the global retail giant, itself recognizes that it has the strength and now the opportunity to have a global impact on the environment.

I'll be going into more details on how the system operates in our next issue. But it is impressive in that the metrics used for Wal-Mart's suppliers' score card include GHG/CO2/generation/t of production material value, product/package ratio, cube utilization, transportation (how far it comes), recycled content, recovery value, renewable energy used in manufacture and, interestingly, innovation. They are weighted differently, with the first four accounting for 15 per cent each of the score. The system will operate globally and suppliers will not need to enter information for each country - scores will automatically take in the different circumstances for say, Asda, and Sam's Club!

In the virtual trade show packaging converters and suppliers can enter their information. Through the use of the scorecard system, users are able to search the industry for new or improved materials, packages and services. In addition, scores will change from day to day as other suppliers join the scheme.

I strongly urge converters who supply or would like to supply companies producing goods for Wal-Mart (just about all of you I guess!) to take a look at the demo of the virtual trade show at www.marketgate.com/packaging

A happy Christmas and another good year to you all.

Pauline Covell


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