Wal-Mart Scorecard Needs More Batters

READING, PA

Remember the hubbub surrounding Y2K? Why, if we didn't act fast enough, when the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, doomsday scenerios saw power grids failing, satellites falling from the sky, and nuclear weapons putting on the most spectacular (and maybe the last!) New Year's Eve display the world has ever seen!

What happened? A light bulb went out in Pamona.

The converting industry was sent into a similar tizzy on Feb. 1, 2007, when Wal-Mart announced the development of its “packaging scorecard,” which required each of its vendors to track and report their use of packaging materials in the more than 120,000 individual products it stocked. The goal was to reduce the volume of packaging sold off its shelves and increase its downstream recyclability. It was implied that those who didn't complete the scorecard would risk having their products kept off the shelves of the world's largest retailer.

As of Feb. 1, 2008, Wal-Mart was to begin using the packaging scorecard to measure and recognize its entire supply chain based upon each company's ability to use less packaging, utilize more effective materials in packaging, and source these materials more efficiently relative to other suppliers.

In response, industry trade publications like PFFC wrote countless articles, and trade associations like the Flexible Packaging Assn. formed task forces, developed support materials, and sponsored seminars that reviewed key aspects of the scorecard to help converters help their packaging buyers prepare for the worst. During the one year trial period, suppliers were expected to input, store, and track data, learning and sharing their results as desired.

So what happened? As of January 30, more than 97,000 products have been entered into the scorecard by just 6,371 of Wal-Mart's 66,000 vendors — and Wal-Mart shelves remain well stocked. For its part, Wal-Mart stands behind the initiative, with its noble goal of reducing the volume of packaging by 5% by 2013.

“We set a goal to have all products entered by February 1, 2008, and while it's not mandatory for suppliers to enter packaging information by this date, we hope they all see the value in doing so,” Tara Raddohl, senior communications manager/Wal-Mart Corporate Communications, told Paper, Film & Foil Converter. “If a supplier doesn't enter their information into the scorecard, the underlying consequence is a lack of information for our buyers when making purchasing decisions. The buyers will only have information on the packages that have been entered into the scorecard and, therefore, can only reward those suppliers accordingly.

“In the meantime,” says Raddohl, “if a supplier has not entered their products into the scorecard, we encourage them to work with their buyers to answer any questions they may have about entering a product and finding more sustainable solutions.”

Raddohl notes that some of the products carried by Wal-Mart and Sam's Clubs “don't have any packaging,” including phone cards and gift cards where “the packaging is part of the product. If we took out all of the products that don't have packaging, we would be dealing with a smaller number than the total amount of products that a typical Wal-Mart or Sam's Club carries.”

Wal-Mart does expect the number of suppliers completing the scorecard and the number of products listed to grow.

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