The green giant from Bentonville

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Wal-Mart announced an ambitious eco-friendly program yesterday that will help measure and communicate the sustainability of individual products and suppliers. But from the way it's being covered you'd think this was the first time the company embraced the green. What short memories the press has.

Wal-Mart was among the first to make inroads in energy efficiency. For years, stores have had skylights and interior lighting systems that automatically adjusted to fluctuations in natural light. It saved energy and of course money. Heating and air conditioning systems were constantly being tweaked, and some years ago, the company declared war on packaging waste and began pressuring suppliers to clean up their businesses.

Today, Wal-Mart said it would begin surveying suppliers and evaluating their sustainability efforts. There's a list of questions similar to a checklist program individual departments began using a little over two years ago. The Sustainability Index is meant as a benchmark program, one that is built on and used throughout the retail industry.

Wal-Mart clearly wants to take a leadership position here. It's partnering with universities and funding the index. Is it doing it solely because it's good for the environment? Of course not, it's good business and a game changer. Now the rest might not have a choice.
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