Wal-Mart’s Scorecard Drives Sustainable Packaging

The retail giant is beginning to scrutinize suppliers based on the scorecard and package modeling software.

By Kate Bertrand Connolly, Packaging Editor

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Greenhouse gas emissions 15%
Packaging material sustainability 15%
Distance transported 10%
Package-to-product ratio 15%
Cube utilization 15%
Recycled content 10%
Recovery value 10%
Renewable energy use 5%
Innovation 5%

Food companies participating in the SVN include Kellogg Co., Tyson Foods, Del Monte, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, Unilever and Procter & Gamble. Packaging suppliers also are represented on the SVN.

At its spring 2008 meeting, the SVN began discussion of phase 2 of the scorecard’s development. Phase 2 of the scorecard is expected to roll out in 2011.

In Phase 1, the SVN has focused on populating the scorecard with data and metrics relating to the environmental impact of producing packaging materials from raw materials. The initial work has not looked at the impact of converting those materials into more complex materials, such as multi-layer laminates.

“In Phase 2, we’re moving into the actual converting operation—if your converting operation is bringing on renewable energy, things of that nature,” says Vanguard’s Gilchrist. Vanguard is a member of the Packaging SVN.

Improved modeling software

The scorecard’s adoption has fueled many side projects, including development of package-design tools. Wal-Mart’s Package Modeling software, as an example, enables suppliers to determine how changes in materials and processes can improve their scorecard results and reduce their packaging’s environmental impact.

Wal-Mart, together with Solon, Ohio-based ECRM (www.ecrm.marketgate.com) and ECRM corporate affiliate Thumbprint Ltd. (www.ithumbprint.com), developed the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Package Modeling software. The software is available through Retail Link, Wal-Mart’s supplier-only web site.

In just the past few months, “We have made some really huge improvements to the Package Modeling software,” says Thomas Velardo, IT publications editor with Thumbprint. “Back in February 2008, the Package Modeling software mirrored what was available through the scorecard. You had to fill out a scorecard and set up a list of packages you would make comparisons with. The new version of Package Modeling is a lot more powerful. It lets you do comparisons on the fly and makes the management of those packages a lot easier.”
Specific improvements to the Package Modeling software include:

  • A new layout that make it easier to access the program’s features and, consequently, find possible sustainability improvements.
  • A feature through which users can enter custom material costs to determine the total material cost of a package.
  • The ability to import/export package and comparison data for easy sharing among users and for scorecard submission.
  • Custom report printing.

In addition, information about packaging suppliers is now easily accessible through the Package Modeling software, which encourages collaboration between packaging buyers and suppliers. Product and company data for packaging converters also is available for raw material suppliers.


Note to Logistics

Minimizing product damage during distribution always has been essential, and it remains a key component in reducing waste and improving sustainability. Thus Sam’s Club has partnered with the International Safe Transit Assn. (ISTA) (www.ista.org), East Lansing, Mich., to develop packaged-product performance tests based on the Sam’s Club distribution environment.

The project teams have been visiting suppliers’ manufacturing sites in countries such as India and China to collect data on distribution conditions that packaged products experience between the factories and Sam’s Club stores.

The test protocol will subject packaged products to simulations of the hazards inherent in distribution, such as shock and vibration, at realistic hazard levels. The protocol will enable suppliers to design packaging that doesn’t under-package — or over-package — their products.

Some suppliers may find they have been testing their packaged products to too high a standard and that a less robust package would provide sufficient product protection in Sam’s distribution environment. Reducing the amount of package materials could improve the package’s score on Wal-Mart’s Packaging Scorecard, as well.

“If you’re using too severe a test, that would make you over-package,” says Ed Church, executive director at ISTA. The test protocol “will give you an idea of how over-packaged you may be against specific hazards.”

Of course, the test protocol also will indicate which hazards the packaging is not standing up to and what parts of the packaging need to be redesigned to provide better product protection.

Sponsors of the ISTA/Sam’s Club research include ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Hershey Co. and Kraft Foods. ISTA hopes to recruit five more sponsors for the project.

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