Author Lynn Cote

Big Box Store Raises Expectations for Sustainable Packaging

Major mass-retailer can shape the practices of thousands of suppliers and other retail companies along the way.

Sustainability issues are top of mind for most industries today, pushing companies to keep looking for ways to reduce their footprint while managing costs and product quality. This re-thinking is often led by consumers who want to make more responsible choices that lessen environmental impacts, and by watchdog groups that are reporting on company practices.

Often it takes a major mass-retailer to lead the charge, which then shapes the practices of their thousands of suppliers and other retail companies along the way – a sort of keeping up with the Joneses that is actually good for the neighbourhood.

I recently attended Walmart’s Sustainable Packaging Conference VI in Toronto, where the company is creating such a sustainability-shift by spelling out three straightforward environmental goals:

  • To be supplied by 100% renewable energy;
  • To create zero waste at all their operations; and
  • To sell products that are safe and sustainable for both people and the environment.

One key area where Walmart is looking to achieve its goals is in packaging that its suppliers use for a huge variety of goods. For example, it has developed a scorecard that tracks items like greenhouse gases per ton of production, material value, product/package ratio, recycled content, transportation, renewable energy and innovation.

This was the sixth time Walmart held this conference and it was impressive to see their representatives and suppliers — among whom EDC has many exporting clients — come out in record numbers. For the many Canadian companies exporting to Walmart, new opportunities lie in understanding their customer’s criteria and having the processes in place to meet them.

Beyond Walmart, we know that sustainability issues are here to stay and there is rising demand for new product and packaging technologies that can help other companies achieve their sustainability goals. In particular, other foreign buyers too are looking for solutions to the following issues:

  • Reducing the amount of packaging;
  • Lighter weight products or packaging;
  • Increasing the use of recycled content;
  • Increasing the recyclability of the product or packaging;
  • Using different and non-traditional materials for common applications;
  • Using renewable resources; and
  • Reducing energy consumption in the production process.

If you think your company offers some of these innovations, you should investigate exporting them or expanding into emerging markets, where there is increasing interest in sustainability issues, and vast opportunities to grow your business. Feel free to ask me how EDC can help: lcote@edc.ca

Categories Clean Technologies, Industry Insights

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