Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will export its packaging sustainability ratings from the United States to 3,132 international locations in 2009.
Packaging scorecards will be applied from February to April in Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and China and will arrive from May to July in Brazil, Central America, Japan, India and the United Kingdom. Argentina is on the list, but scorecard implementation has not been scheduled, said Sam's Club packaging director Amy Zettlemoyer-Lazar, in a Nov. 9 keynote address at Pack Expo 2008 in Chicago.
Packaging scorecard metrics will be adjusted, with those changes announced to suppliers and buyers in April at Wal-Mart's Sustainable Packaging Expo in Bentonville, Ark., she said.
Scorecard fine-tuning reflects Wal-Mart's desire to focus on greenhouse gas reductions and on more aggressive packaging weight reduction as the company moves toward its 2013 goal of a 5 percent decrease in packaging, Zettlemoyer-Lazar said in a Nov. 11 interview at the trade show.
``It's going to be rolling out in English in some of the countries so that we don't delay for translation,'' she said. ``It's a good first start for us. Translations will come later.''
By February one year after the scorecard went live in the United States the associated software will contain improved reporting features to aid suppliers in tracking progress toward sustainability goals, Zettlemoyer-Lazar said. The changes will help buyers, because they'll compare like products from different suppliers such as milk jug to milk jug vs. milk jug to egg carton.
Since Wal-Mart unveiled the scorecard in November 2006, about 90 percent of items shipped to Sam's Club stores except produce and meat, which are exempt from the scorecard have met the requirements, Zettlemoyer-Lazar said. About 250,000 items stocked at Wal-Mart outlets are entered into the database, she said.
As the person who has been the face of the scorecard to the packaging industry for two years, Zettlemoyer-Lazar acknowledged the system still has its critics among suppliers concerned about how it affects their production costs.
``Most of our suppliers have embraced it as a great way to communicate with [Wal-Mart] and our buyers,'' she said. ``The push-back that we're getting directly is mainly about making sure that it gets used by [Wal-Mart] buyers meeting with the suppliers and how to integrate that, how it's being used to make buying decisions.''
Zettlemoyer-Lazar said she was surprised how few of Wal-Mart's suppliers paid attention to packaging before the scorecard came out.
``Many of our midlevel and small-level suppliers provided great items and had packaging that worked, but they didn't understand it. This has challenged them to understand their packaging better, which ultimately makes them better suppliers to us and to our customers.''
Pack Expo organizers set aside a portion of the show floor for an information center on Wal-Mart's scorecard, with presentations by companies that have trained suppliers in the use of the software.
``It's been over a year and we've [trained] 250 companies,'' said Jane Severin, a partner at Packaging Knowledge Group LLC of Northville, Mich. ``We expected to stop training on Feb. 1, 2008. We're surprised it's still going on now.''
Environmental Packaging International of Jamestown, R.I., is training suppliers on the scorecard for China. In the five months since training began, about 200 Chinese companies and 100 U.S. suppliers have participated, President Victor Bell said.
``What Wal-Mart has done is to provide the companies the means to really look at their internal footprint and use it to help with their supply-chain due diligence,'' Bell said.
In addition to expanding the scorecard's reach among converters, Wal-Mart has ongoing discussions with resin makers about their role in the supply chain, Zettlemoyer-Lazar said. That discussion includes bioplastics.
``When we look at biopolymers, understanding their energy usage, their greenhouse gas emissions gives us options, depending on the price of a barrel of oil,'' she said. But a major shift to biobased packaging in North America likely will have to wait until home composting levels begin to approach those of Europe, she said.