Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has unveiled a plan to increase pressure on its 60,000 suppliers worldwide to develop greener packaging and conserve natural resources.

The initiative, which was announced at the conclusion of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, is set to begin in 2008. Wal-Mart says it expects to reduce overall packaging by 5% and save 667,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide that would otherwise enter the atmosphere. The retailer predicted total cost savings of US$10.98bn and Wal-Mart alone expects to save $3.4bn by reducing the amount of waste it produces.

“Packaging is where consumers and suppliers come together and can have a real impact both on business efficiency and environmental stewardship,” said Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott. “Even small changes to packaging have a significant ripple effect.  Improved packaging means less waste, fewer materials used, and savings on transportation, manufacturing, shipping and storage.”

On 1 November, Wal-Mart will introduce a packaging scorecard to more than 2,000 private label manufacturers. This, the company said, will allow Wal-Mart buyers easy access to information about packaging “allowing them to make better purchasing decisions”.

On 1 February 2007, the scorecard system will be expanded to include all of the company’s global suppliers. The next 12-months will be set aside to give suppliers the opportunity to adapt to the new system and packaging requirements. Beginning in 2008, Wal-Mart will measure the packaging produced by all food manufacturers and “recognise” those who use less packaging, more environmentally friendly materials and source those materials more efficiently.

“When you bring the capabilities of the entire supply chain together, the ability to make a difference really pops.  There’s a multiplier effect.  Instead of just looking at what Wal-Mart can do alone, we have the opportunity to inspire thousands of companies and millions of customers, as well,” Scott said.