In July 2009, Walmart began the development of a sustainable product index called the Sustainability Index. Like most folks in the corporate sustainability world, I was incredibly impressed and excited about the prospects of this mean, green, sustainability machine. But I was also a bit intimidated by what it entailed. If that sounds like you, then Environmental Defense Fund, Walmart and its other NGO partners are about to provide some clarity and a little jump start.
Before we talk about that, let’s talk about what the Index actually is: Walmart created the Index last year to help drive its suppliers towards the production of more sustainable products and in the process, bring greater transparency to its large and widespread supply chain. The long term vision is that the Index will use the information generated from Walmart’s supply chain to develop a consumer-facing tool. This tool will provide customers with a basic rating for every product based on the product’s environmental impact – sort of like "nutrition facts" for sustainability. However, for now that sort of rating system is a ways off, and the Sustainability Index is still in its infancy.
As a first step towards a robust Sustainability Index, Walmart has asked its suppliers to complete the Supplier Sustainability Assessment – a set of 15 questions that gauges how individual suppliers are facing sustainability, highlights those which will be instrumental to Walmart’s development of a greener supply chain and identifies suppliers needing support in their pursuit of a more sustainable business. Fifteen questions don’t sound so tough, right? Well, Walmart’s really trying to dig deep.
From the initial responses, Walmart found that some of their 100,000 suppliers had questions and needed assistance in completing the Assessment. In order to provide guidance to their suppliers as they work through the questions, Walmart called on its NGO partners, including Environmental Defense Fund, to produce content for an instructional webinar.
This webinar will provide suppliers with resources, top opportunities and best practices to aid them in answering the 15 Assessment questions and in their overarching pursuit of sustainability.
The Supplier Sustainability Assessment, and consequently the webinar, focuses on four key environmental areas:
- energy and climate
- natural resources
- material efficiency
- people and community
Environmental Defense Fund assisted in this effort by developing the “material efficiency” segment, which focuses on water use and waste. Other NGO contributors include Alliance to Save Energy, Carbon Disclosure Project, Conservation International and Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.
This webcast is rich in material and will be valuable to Walmart suppliers. But this webinar has wide applicability. First off, anybody involved in the manufacturing of products can learn a thing or two about how sustainability saves money. And if you’re an NGO in this industry, the webinar can serve as a great resource to you so you can then serve as a great resource to your corporate partner.
Join us on Wednesday, March 31 from 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM (CST) for the launch of the webcast, accompanied by a live question and answer session.
The webinar can be accessed here: http://walmartstores.com/sustainabilitywebinar and will remain available after the launch for viewing.
For more information on our work with Walmart, visit http://edf.org/walmart.