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-April 19, 2007


Green Supply Chain: Wal-Mart, Home Depot, to Provide Consumers with more Information on Eco-Friendly Products


Retail giants’ moves will put pressure on suppliers, but will consumers really act?


SCDigest Editorial Staff


Retail giants Wal-Mart and Home Depot have both recently announced Green Supply Chain initiatives that will potentially add new consumer pressure to suppliers’ product and packaging decisions.

Wal-Mart this week announced a new “Living Better Index” (see Wal-Mart Launches the Live Better Index with First Focus on the Environment), which it says will be “an ongoing barometer of consumer attitudes and shopping behaviors.”

To begin the program, Wal-Mart has decided to specifically track five specific products, “selected because consumers can make a conscious decision to purchase them for their environmentally friendly and cost-saving benefits versus conventional versions.”  The items are: compact florescent light bulbs (CFLs); organic milk; concentrated/reduced-packaging liquid laundry detergents; extended-life paper products; and organic baby food.

Wal-Mart released some initial findings from the project, including research that said that while only 11% of Americans classify themselves as extremely green today, 43% of Americans think they will be extremely green in the next five years.

Meanwhile, Home Depot announced the launch of something it calls the “Eco Options” program, which enables customers to easily identify products that are the most environmentally friendly of the available product choices. (See The Home Depot Introduces Eco Options.)

The company said it identified more than 2,500 “Eco Option” products, including all-natural insect repellents, front-loading washing machines, organic plant food, and vegetables in biodegradable pots.

In the short term, the programs will put pressure on Wal-Mart and Home Depot suppliers to go more green with their products and supply chains, both to catch on to what may be a consumer trend, and also to maintain favor with the perceived eco-preference Wal-Mart and now it appears Home Depot have. 

In the end, it will be consumers who determine that right level of emphasis. Some Wall Street commentators are skeptical.

"Come on," Scott Rothbort, founder of LakeView Asset Management, is quoted on The "Be serious. Is there a contractor in the world who's going to walk into a Home Depot and say, 'give me the environmentally friendly stuff?' (The companies are) just jumping on the Al Gore global warming bandwagon."

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