Wal-Mart Steps Up Its Green Game

When it comes to wooing its environmentalist enemies, Wal-Mart just doesn't quit. The company now says its plans to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent products in its U.S. Wal-Mart stores and Sam's Clubs. Making the announcement at the Clinton Global Initiative, Wal-Mart president/CEO Lee Scott told attendees the move will save more than 400 million gallons of water, 95 million pounds of plastic and 125 million pounds of cardboard.

The company says its goal is "to be a catalyst for the transformation of the entire liquid laundry detergent category across the retail industry and save vast amounts of natural resources."

That news comes just days after Wal-Mart announced a partnership with the Carbon Disclosure Project to measure the amount of energy used to create products throughout its supply chain, including the procurement, manufacturing and distribution process. "Using this measurement tool, Wal-Mart will initiate a pilot with a group of suppliers to look for new and innovative ways to make the entire process more energy efficient,' the company says.



It also comes less than a week after its announcement to introduce a line of compact fluorescent light bulbs under the Great Value brand label, making the emissions-reducing products even more accessible.

Add it all up, and Wal-Mart is announcing major environmental initiatives faster than it's cutting prices on last summer's boogie boards. The rollout of concentrated detergent at Wal-Mart stores starts in Southern stores Oct. 1, with all stores fully converted by May. "The rollout will include such brands as Tide, All small-and-mighty, Wisk, Purex, Sun, Great Value, Arm & Hammer and Xtra," Wal-Mart says.

The company says it made the decision after a test with Unilever, which introduced its "All small-and-mighty" in February 2006. "The success of this partnership led Wal-Mart to work with suppliers throughout the laundry detergent industry, including P&G, Unilever, Dial, Huish, and Church & Dwight, to offer their own concentrated laundry detergents," the company says.

Wal-Mart says it will help market the new formulations with interactive displays that help customers understand the environmental benefits, as well as running ads in print, Wal-Mart TV and walmart.com.

The larger marketing question, experts say, is whether Wal-Mart's barrage of green initiatives will budge the perception of many consumers who still feel that Wal-Mart--the quintessential big-box store--is nothing but a Bentonville, Ark.-based greenwasher.

Some green-marketing experts think this is a game Wal-Mart can win. "While they are still picking and choosing from the green buffet, what they do in their supply chain trickles down to everyone," says Darrin Duber-Smith, president of Green Marketing, based in Nederland, Colo. "Wal-Mart certainly isn't perfect, and I think many consumers would like to see them introduce a comprehensive--and transparent--sustainability plan, but I'm impressed. And I think, eventually, they absolutely can win people back."

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