This is huge

Walmart is rolling out a labeling program for its 100,000 suppliers worldwide to make them track environmental and social impacts of their products. It will be like a nutrition label for CSR. Apparently “scholars, suppliers and environmental groups” to establish the standards.

Wal-Mart’s goal is to have other retailers eventually adopt the indexing system, which will be created over the next five years.

“We have to change how we make and sell products,”Michael T. Duke, Wal-Mart’s president and chief executive, plans to tell about 1,500 of the company’s suppliers and employees on Thursday at a “sustainability meeting,” according to a copy of his prepared remarks. “We have to make consumption itself smarter and sustainable.”

The only thing less likely than a Wal-Mart meeting that sounds as if it were dreamed up by liberal-arts environmentalists may be that a number of scholars and environmental groups say that Wal-Mart is the only entity capable of making “sustainable consumption” a retailing reality.

“Nobody else could pull this off,” said Michelle Harvey atEnvironmental Defense Fund, one of the groups involved in the creation of the index.

The question, of course, is whether even Wal-Mart can make it happen.

And, where will they set the bar for the standards? Low enough that everyone gets in and it becomes greenwashing? Or high enough that they actually make a difference for an increasingly ecologically pressured future? Either way, it is going to have a huge impact.

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