WalMart Brasil’s Next Step in the “Green World”

WalMart, one of the most controversial companies in the world, has set its next step in the world of sustainability and ‘greenness’. Well, in Brazil that is.
Amazing, as Brazil is one of the biggest polluters in the world, is infamous for its ‘big mouth’ and empty words in regard to its natural treasures (Amazon, Pantanal, Cerrado etc), its negligence of implementing selective waste collection systems and waste management and its unwillingness to draft and enforce laws to reduce the tremendous problems of landfills.

Within this typical Brazilian ‘Wild West’ environment, the sustainability step of WalMart Brasil, is, due to its company size and influence within the world of the Brazilian consumer products companies, not only laudable but of sheer incalculable consequences, as the other supermarket chains have to follow and the (international) consumer products companies involved can’t stop this trend anymore. Whether they like it or not, they have to set the next step and have to be followed by companies not yet involved.
WalMart Brasil dictates, and in this case that’s a good one.

Above I used the word ‘trend’ which reminds me of my promise to write about the forecasted trends for 2010. Well, without saying that I’ll not write about the other trends as well, this is probably one of the trends most to be seen in 2010. The 6R’s (rethink, redesign, reduce, reuse, refill, and recycle) will definitely dominate the packaging trends in 2010.

But let’s go back to WalMart Brasil’s End-to-End Sustainable Packaging Project.

Last week Walmart introduced 10 products of some of its main suppliers that were developed within the End-to-End Project: Sustainability Across Boundaries. In other words the results of the analysis of the life cycle of these products – from raw material to disposal – in regard to reduce their environmental impacts.

Aware of the complexity of putting sustainability in supply chains into practice, especially in a world with some 7,000 suppliers and 60,000 items in its stores, Walmart challenged nine business partners with well-known brands to participate in the project.
PepsiCo’s chocolate product Organic Toddy, Nestlé’s line of Pureza Vital waters, Unilever’s concentrated fabric softener Comfort, Johnson&Johnson’s Band-Aid,  Colgate-Palmolive’s disinfectant Pinho Sol, 3M’s bath sponge Ponjita Naturals Curauá, the Total Confort Pampers of Procter&Gamble, Coca-Cola Brasil’s Matte Leão Orgânico, Cargill’s line of vegetable oils with the brand name Liza, besides WalMart’s own brand of soap TopMax (manufactured by Bertolini).

Let’s have a look at the results. One by one. It just is a simple enumeration, but with regard to the results, fascinating to read.

Unilever’s concentrated fabric softener Comfort
Unilever focused on environmental education campaigns informing consumers of the concept of concentrated products and the environmental improvements resulting from this, the use of fewer natural resources and consequently the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and waste residues. Unilever achieved the following results:

In packaging:
– 63% reduction in paper consumption for the cardboard shipping cases.
– 37% reduction in consumption of plastic for the bottles
These material reductions, consequently resulted in a reduction in energy and water consumption for production and transport of the product and a 37% reduction in the amount of post-consumer solid waste.

3M’s bath sponge Ponjita Naturals Curauá
Apparently 3M started to develop a new product from scratch, focusing on the use of renewable natural fibres and recycled synthetic fossil-based fibres, as well as reducing the volume of the packaging and optimizing the use of energy. Compared to a regular bath sponge, the Curauá presents the following benefits:

– 44% less raw materials consumed in product packaging and shipping boxes;
– 32% reduction of solid waste due to the innovative design of the sponge that allows for a more efficient use of fibre;
– 52% reduction in electricity consumption in the industrial process;
– 42% of the used raw materials comes from renewable sources (curauá fibre and cotton string);
– 198% increase of recycled material for the cardboard boxes and by applying PET fibre, both 100% recyclable;
– Use of materials for the production of the cardboard boxes, certified by the FSC – the Brazilian Council of Forest Management.

Cargill’s line of Liza vegetable oils
Cargill focused on improvements in the production process with emphasis on weight reduction of the primary PET packaging and benefiting from the implementation of a new more efficient manufacturing plant.

The environmental gains achieved by Cargill were:
– A reduction of 26% in water consumption;
– 18% reduction in electricity consumption for the production of plastic bottles;
– 35% reduction through optimization of the trucking mileage to transport products to WalMart Brasil distribution centres;
– Reduction of 56% in the consumption of fossil fuels by changing a part of the energy from oil to biomass;
– Use of materials in the production of the cardboard boxes, certified by the FSC – Brazilian Council of Forest and CERFLOR – Brazilian Program of Forest Certification;
– 10% reduction in the quantity of plastic material required for the production of the bottles;
– Final result: A total reduction of 40% of greenhouse gas emissions.

Colgate-Palmolive’s disinfectant Pinho Sol
The Pinho Sol disinfectant line of products was reviewed regarding the raw materials used and the impact it could have in Colgate’s production plants.
The benefits achieved are impressive:

– 17% reduction in plastic material for the product packaging;
– Packaging material with 100% recycled PET, 90% post-consumer and 10% pre-consumer;
– Reduction of 15% of the weight of the bottle cap by omitting the seal, facilitating recycling;
– Use of 45% post-consumer recycled cardboard for the shipping boxes resulting in a saving of 416 tonnes of virgin raw material per year;
– Reuse of 3% of water in the production process;
– 6% reduction in energy consumption for the production process;
– 100% use of FSC certified paper for the product labels;
– Use of essences from certified suppliers in accordance with the ISO 14001 standard.

Coca-Cola Brasil’s Matte Leão Orgânico
In January 2010 Coca-Cola Brasil launched the first organic mate tea. The Matte Leão Orgânico, in packages of 100 grs, is made from organic mate, a typical Brazilian medicinal herb, grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers. This new organic product was the ideal object for the WalMart sustainability project, as it included the development of a certified organic product and the installation of a green production facility, the use of recycled materials and the reduction of the amount of printing ink on the packaging.

– The use of 100% organic mate herbs, certified by Ecocert and IBD (Biodynamic Institute), guaranteeing the absence of chemical fertilizers or pesticides residues in their crops;
– The use of 100% recycled packaging material, of which 30% post-consumer, while the shipping cases are certified by the FSC – the Brazilian Council of Forest Management.
– Reduction of the CO2 emissions as the transport of raw material from the farm to the factory is done by trucks using 10% bio-diesel.
– A 90% reduction in the amount of printing ink on the product packaging;
– A 93% reduction of volatile organic compounds emissions with the use of printing ink with low VOCs;
– A 23% reduction in energy consumption and 36% reduction in water consumption in the production process;

Furthermore the tea box conveys an environmental message and describes all stages of the product in order to clarify and educate the consumer about the issues involved in the manufacture of organic and sustainable products.

PepsiCo’s chocolate product Organic Toddy
The development of an organic chocolate milk product called for a comprehensive value-engineering study of the product, which resulted in benefits that went beyond the product itself, creating positive impacts from the point of production to the final stage of disposal of the packaging.

The results for the packaging achieved by the project were:
– 100% recycled material for the production of labels (75% to 80% pre-consumer and 25% to 20% post-consumer), certified by the FSC – the Brazilian Council of Forest Management;

Furthermore is the product made from 100% certified organic cocoa and sugar and is burning during the harvest of the sugar cane not allowed anymore, resulting in a lower emission of greenhouse gases;

Nestlé’s line of Pureza Vital waters
Nestlé Waters has 75 brands of water across the globe. Although present in 38 countries, for Brazil Pureza Vital is the new launch of Nestlé in the area of mineral waters.

It was this product (still and sparkling) that Nestlé used for its WalMart sustainability project, focusing on reduction in primary and secondary packaging and optimizing the use of water and energy in the production processes.

In packaging the following results were achieved:
– The reduction of material used in plastic bottles of still water is: 36% reduction in bottle caps, 25% reduction in bottles of 300ml, 3% in bottles of 510 ml and 1.5 litres;
– The reduction in the consumption of plastic used in bottles of sparkling water; 25% reduction in bottle caps, 25% reduction in bottles of 300 ml, 22% reduction in bottles of 510 ml and 19% reduction in bottles of 1.5 litres;
– Removal of the (colour) pigments of the caps, facilitating recycling and adding value to the post-consumer waste stream;
– Bottles of Purity Vital and Petrópolis without pigment, facilitating recycling and adding value to the post-consumer waste stream;
– 18% reduction in consumption of plastic shrink film (bundle pack)
– 25% reduction of cardboard used in palletizing;
– Reduction of 31% of plastic stretch film around the pallet;
– Easier removal of the label by the consumer, facilitating its post-consumer recycling;
– Use of Braille on bottles so they can be identified by consumers with special needs;

Furthermore Nestlé realized a reduction in water consumption of 26% in its bottling facility in São Lourenço and of 51% in Petrópolis, besides a reduction in energy consumption of 9% in São Lourenço.

Johnson&Johnson’s Band-Aid
I don’t have to introduce the product, as it’s well-known all over the world. In this sustainability project Johnson&Johnson focussed on the development of a smaller primary package to accommodate the same number of band-aids which should reduce packaging material, optimize the production process and the transport the product.

The results in packaging:
– 18% reduction in the use of packaging material;
– Using 30% recycled post-consumer packaging material, economizing more than 32 million packages which originally would use virgin packaging material;
– 40% use of recycled post-consumer material in the shipping cases, representing a gain equivalent to 1,8 million shipping cartons;
– Reducing the transport of the products to the United States and Canada with 3,228 pallets and 72 containers per year due to the reduction of the packaging dimensions;
– Reduction of CO2 emissions due to a lower amount of residual post-consumer cellulose degrading in landfills.

And furthermore:
– Reduction of 2,038 tonnes per year of material losses in the production process;
– Reduction of 1,192,000 kWh per year of energy in the production process;
– Recycling of 50 tonnes per year of silicone paper no longer sent to industrial landfills;
– Reduction of 11,600 km in transport of containers in Brazil and Latin America due to the re-dimensioning of the packaging;
– Reduction in CO2 emissions due to lower energy consumption in the production process and transport;

Total Confort Pampers of Procter&Gamble
Procter&Gamble focused for its famous Pampers brand on the development of a diaper with a higher absorption capacity using a smaller quantity of pulp and also allowing for greater compression of the diapers in the packages, which should reduce the quantity of packaging material and optimize transportation of the product.

The project achieved the following results in packaging:
– Reduction of 7.5% in volume by compressing the packaging and product;
– 25% increase in the efficiency of transport of the product due to the realized compaction;

Furthermore the project resulted in:
– A 30% reduction in the use of cellulose pulp;
– A reduction of 7% of the total weight of the diaper resulting in lower post-consumer waste;
– 9% reduction in energy for the production process;
– 10% reduction in CO2 emissions (due to a lower energy consumption in the production process and transport).

WalMart’s TopMax soap
The last is WalMart’s own product. Although an interesting new development product wise, there is nothing to tell about the packaging as unfortunately WalMart forgot this aspect of the project. They still have some home-work to do.

This project focused on the development of a new product for the reuse of (vegetable) cooking oil collected as waste from customers, employees and partners for the production of a more sustainable soap.

The project intended to create awareness and engagement of customers, employees and partners for the separation and proper disposal of used cooking oil, which could be, with a 20% content, recycled into soap bars, with 20% lower price tag for the consumer.

This project showed no improvement in packaging, despite all the other companies in the End-to-End Project. Strange because WalMart’s product should be the perfect packaging-example. Besides having no improvement in sustainability in packaging, my fellow blogger and designer Elisa Quartim at “Embalagem Sustentável” characterizes the graphic design as horrible and confusing.

What is to say more? Undoubtedly WalMart will continue to activate more suppliers to join its sustainability projects. Hopefully the international consumer products companies involved will transfer their Brazilian experiences to other markets. Imagine the reduction in CO2 emissions in case Nestlé, Unilever, Cargill, Johnson&Johnson, Procter&Gamble and all the others will take this type of sustainability actions worldwide. Look at what it implies for their (financial) bottom line, and in the same wave for this planet.


2 responses to “WalMart Brasil’s Next Step in the “Green World”

  1. The initiatives for Green business is excellent. Need some more informations,
    1. Has think for Bio-degradable plastics
    2.How laminate converter is working to support the green business
    3. What is the total investment for going green
    4.How to do
    5. Which country has presently signed for green business

  2. Pingback: Bottlebenchpack : Vers des bouteilles d’eau éco-responsables? « Le blog de l'éco-conception·

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