When Walmart moves, people move with it.
Suppliers found that out the hard way when retailer went big for RFID adoption a few years back. "What do you mean we need to provide a better way to automate the tracking of products across the supply chain?" That one hurt lots of companies, especially smaller ones that hadn’t invested in the technology. Still, Walmart says it must be so. Then let it be so.
But given the domestic interest in environmental activism, Walmart's latest move could be even more profound. If you can't guilt companies into action, then hit them in the wallet!
At the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) gathering in New York this week, Walmart disclosed (finally) that it will work with the group to measure the energy used to create products it sells across its stores. (CDP, affiliated with former President Bill Clinton, is focused on providing environmentally sensitive investors with information about which companies are the "greenest" or at least more green than others in their peer groups.)
The Walmart announcement isn’t really a surprise, but the clock is now ticking for the big consumer products companies. Ha, and they thought they could get away with ignoring the CDP’s annual questionnaire urging companies to disclose greenhouse emissions information voluntarily!
The mega-retailer will look first at the impact of products in seven categories that it considers essential to many Americans: DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, vacuum cleaners, soda and (gasp!) beer. Beer, huh? Itself a sad commentary on U.S. consumerism. Do the Budweiser Clydesdale horses count?
Walmart and CDP will work with suppliers to study and measure the energy usage required for all steps of getting a product to a human: procurement, manufacturing and distribution. It hasn’t given a timeframe for when it will actually take action on this information. Another stay tuned kind of announcement.
I gotta bet, though, that this particular declaration has many consumer product execs sitting up and taking notice.