17 July 2009 | Jake Kanter
Wal-Mart is set to interrogate its 100,000 suppliers worldwide on their sustainability credentials.
The retail giant announced yesterday that vendors will be sent a survey including 15 questions (see external link) on energy and the environment, materials, use of natural resources and labour standards.
It is the first part of Wal-Mart's plan to develop a "worldwide sustainable product index", which aims to help customers understand the entire lifecycle of a product.
Speaking yesterday at a meeting of 1,500 of the company's suppliers, associates and sustainability officers, John Fleming, chief merchandising officer said: "The questions aren't complicated but we've never before systematically asked for this kind of information. The survey is a key first step toward establishing real transparency in our supply chain."
CEO Mike Duke added that customers "want to know that the materials in the product are safe, that it was made well and that it was produced in a responsible way".
The retailer's first-tier US suppliers will be asked to complete the questionnaire by 1 October, while other vendors outside the country will be set separate completion targets.
The second phase in Wal-Mart's project will organise a consortium of universities to work with vendors and retailers on developing a database, mapping products from raw materials to disposal. It will then translate the information into a simple rating for consumers.