Wal-Mart Packaging Scorecard Rates Packaging Sustainability

Beginning this month, the retailer’s Packaging Scorecard helps suppliers gauge the relative sustainability of their packaging.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Wal-Mart is encouraging its suppliers to work closely with packaging vendors to evaluate their packaging’s sustainability and to develop modifications that will earn them a better score. Several packaging materials vendors have programs in place, or in development, that address sustainability and help identify packaging inefficiencies and excesses.

Atlanta-based Georgia-Pacific LLC (www.gp.com) offers the Packaging Systems Optimization (PSO) program, which is geared to reducing waste, lowering costs and improving sustainability across the packaging supply chain. The company recently opened up the PSO program to non-customers.

PSO (www.gppso.com) evaluates a company’s entire packaging system to find areas for improvement. Results can be used to optimize nine areas of the supply chain, including package design, SKU consolidation, materials handling and distribution. The net result is greater sustainability via reduced greenhouse gas emissions and lower energy use, which in turn are the result of reductions in fiber use, transportation and warehousing.

“When you match those nine PSO elements to the Wal-Mart scorecard drivers such as greenhouse gas emissions and material value, there’s a good portion of the scorecard that goes right to those nine elements,” says George D’Urso, Innovation Institute operations manager at Georgia-Pacific.

He adds, “One thing that came out clearly in the last SVN meeting [in December] was that if you want to impact your score, the single, largest low-hanging fruit is source reduction. And PSO hits that mark square on.”

In the plastic-packaging market, Dow Chemical plans to launch an automated package-sustainability evaluation system, perhaps as early as the first quarter of 2008. The system would enable companies to easily analyze and evaluate various packaging alternatives.

In November, Diamond Packaging (www.diamondpkg.com), Rochester, N.Y., announced its sustainable packaging program, called the Diamond Greenbox Initiative.

The initiative promotes sustainability in all aspects of package production and aims to minimize environmental impact throughout the supply chain. Diamond’s design process incorporates tools such as Wal-Mart’s Package Modeling software and ArtiosCAD for structural design.

Wal-Mart, together with ECRM (www.ecrm-online.com) and ECRM corporate affiliate Thumbprint Ltd. (www.ithumbprint.com), both based in Solon, Ohio, created the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Package Modeling software. The software, which is available on a subscription basis, enables companies to model how changes in materials and processes can improve packaging scores and reduce environmental impact.

Wal-Mart’s participation in the development of modeling software demonstrates the retailer’s commitment to simplifying the scorecard process for suppliers and their packaging vendors.

“I think Wal-Mart has done an admirable job in trying to make a very complex system into something that’s plug-and-play, fill out the lines and get a score at the end,” says D’Urso. “It’s a significant step forward in that regard. It has taken sustainability very much mainstream.”

Note to marketing

Sales, marketing and design executives – as well as package engineers and packaging suppliers -- interested in learning more about how to use the Wal-Mart Packaging Scorecard should check out professional training sessions such as those offered by the Sustainability Education partnership (www.sustainability-education.com), Solon, Ohio.
The training sessions focus on efficiently entering packages into the scorecard system, performing scorecard calculations and improving package scores — and also offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse at how Wal-Mart uses the scorecard system.

The Seven Rs

Wal-Mart has created a list of guidelines related to sustainability that its suppliers can use when designing, redesigning or evaluating packaging. The retailer describes the guidelines, which it calls the “Seven Rs,” as follows:

  1. Remove Packaging: Eliminate unnecessary packaging such as extra boxes or layers.
  2. Reduce Packaging: Right-size packages and optimize material strength.
  3. Reuse Packaging: Choose reusable pallets and plastic containers.
  4. Renewable Packaging: Use materials made of renewable resources; select biodegradable or compostable materials.
  5. Recyclable Packaging: Use materials made of the highest recycled content without compromising quality.
  6. Revenue: Achieve all of the above principles at cost parity or cost savings.
  7. Read: Get educated on sustainability and how we can all support it.
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