Green China

Walmart rewards green ideas with shelf space

By Ma Zhenhuan (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-08-30 15:16
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SHANGHAI - Wang Xuemei takes energy-saving so seriously she has invented a device that she hopes will become a commercial success.

"I hope my invention, a solar-energy recharger, will make the battery charging process faster, greener and cleaner" said Wang, a student from Beijing Normal University.

Wang was among 200 entrants in China to be rewarded by Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, for their creative ideas and inventions in the energy-saving sector.

The four-month exercise, which attracted students from 51 colleges and 29 high schools in 20 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, brought in a total of 663 proposals on waste emissions and recycling, energy-saving production and sustainable product packaging and design. A total of 100 creative ideas and 100 energy-saving inventions received awards.

"We are looking for innovative ideas and products that not only can be sold to our customers, but also can be used in our daily operations, for example in our own buildings and logistics. We are always testing new ideas that can reduce our costs or the environmental footprint," said Matt Kistler, senior vice-president for sustainability at the company commonly known as Walmart.

The company also said it hoped that it would be working actively with the winners and Walmart's suppliers to further apply these ideas into its supply chain.

Walmart China has launched a sustainability value network in China to bring new and creative ideas into practical application, helping to improve its supply chain and logistics processes.

"In our view, the benefit that we see in sustainable activities will also benefit our suppliers," Kistler said.

For example, Walmart has been promoting new concepts and designs for small packaging worldwide.

"With smaller packages, we become more efficient and it helps to improve the efficiency of the factories where the products were made. It will also benefit our customers," he said.

In the US, Walmart made a commitment to work with its suppliers to reduce the energy that flat televisions consume.

"Through our efforts, all the flat TVs that we carry in the US use 30 percent less energy than they did in 2008," said Kistler.

Ed Chan, president and chief executive officer of Walmart China, said that by the end of this year, all new stores will on average use 40 percent less energy than in 2005. He said he was confident of reaching that goal.

"For example, the electricity consumption in our Wangjing store in Beijing so far uses 35 percent less electricity than in 2005 and we apply energy-saving LED lamps in our shops, which helps to reduce electricity," he said.

Chan also said that he was hopeful that more Chinese farmers will benefit from the Direct Farm Program, a campaign launched by Walmart China, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Commerce. Its aim is that supermarkets will directly purchase agricultural products from 1 million farmers nationwide by 2011, up from the current 479,000.

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The program, a significant move in sustainability, has so far set up 46 direct-purchasing bases nationwide covering 347,000 mu (23,133 hectares) of land.

Walmart worked with rural co-operatives in China to help farmers with their techniques and harvest capabilities under the program.

"In this situation, we don't just buy from them but also offer them technical skills such as water-saving know-how. The farmers can benefit from more income and apply sustainable farming," Chan said.

Customers also benefit from higher-quality, lower-priced meat and vegetables.

"We think that by working with our suppliers we can obtain sustainable development goals by reducing our costs and improving the products' quality as well." Chan said.