Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today officially unveiled its widely rumored plan to slap an “eco-rating” on products in its stores. The world’s largest retailer is betting that shoppers will care how green their purchases are — and maybe even pay more for environmentally friendly merchandise.
The green ratings will take years to show up on the chain’s shelves. In the first phase of its initiative, Wal-Mart will ask suppliers questions about things such as the amount of water used in producing items. The aim is to develop a green index for Wal-Mart products similar to the nutritional label found on the packaging for food products.
“Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better,” Wal-Mart Chief Executive Mike Duke said in a statement. “And increasingly they want information about the entire life cycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it. . . . We do not see this as a trend that will fade.”
Experts have said the ambitious program probably will spur suppliers to redesign products to reduce their environmental impact and improve their score. And that could cause broad changes in manufacturing.
What’s interesting about the way Wal-Mart is going about this program, however, is that it hopes to provide an accurate rating on each project. I suspect lots of products that currently call themselves green won’t fare so well when put to the Wal-Mart test.