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Walmart Canada president/CEO unveils sustainability goals, programs

Walmart_Canada.jpgAs part of its commitment to become a zero-waste business, Walmart Canada has extended an open invitation to consumers to voice concerns about specific products with excessive or inappropriate packaging. Canadians can now submit details of their concerns at Walmart Canada's sustainability Web site, www.forthegreenergood.ca, where they will be registered by the company and provided directly to product suppliers and manufacturers.

"No matter what the issue, the best truth-test for any retailer or product supplier is customer feedback," says David Cheesewright, Walmart Canada's CEO and president. "We have set ambitious sustainability goals for our company, we have established new standards with our suppliers, but our customers will ultimately determine how far is far enough."

Cheesewright announced the customer feedback program in remarks to a gathering of 1,000 product suppliers and sustainable packaging experts at the Walmart Sustainable Packaging Conference held in Toronto on May 6. He also announced plans to hold product manufacturers more accountable for their packaging choices and to reduce product packaging in Walmart Canada stores by 5% by 2013.

It is estimated that just 8% of the environmental impact of Walmart's business is directly tied to its business operations, and that the remaining 92% relates to products, including packaging. To support its waste reduction goals, Walmart Canada is introducing a packaging scorecard to assess suppliers based on their packaging, including the quantity and qualities of materials used. Scorecard results will play a role in the company's decision to stock products going forward.

Walmart’s scale can drive industry change
The conference event, titled "Sustainable Packaging: A Strategic Imperative," was the third of its kind hosted by Walmart Canada and the Packaging Association of Canada (PAC, www.pac.ca/). The event included presentations and panels with the CEOs of Canadian companies like Procter & Gamble, Hewlett Packard, and Kraft.

Recent comments from Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty suggesting customers should leave excess packaging at retail stores, growing demands for legislated terms for extended producer responsibility, and improved technology and packaging innovation have all contributed to the growing focus on sustainable packaging.

"It certainly seems that packaging is a growing focus for anyone talking about environmental sustainability in retail," said Cheesewright. "In addition to our many other sustainability initiatives, packaging is an area of our business where Walmart's scale can drive substantial industry-wide change for our thousands of suppliers, and our millions of customers."

Walmart Canada operates a growing chain of 312 stores nationwide, serving more than 1 million Canadians daily. With 80,000 associates, the company is Canada's fourth-largest employer. Walmart has three long-term global sustainability commitments: 1. To operate a zero-waste business; 2. To operate with 100% renewable energy; 3. To provide Canadian customers products that sustain resources and the environment.

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