Packaging Strategies spoke with Laura Phillips, SVP of sustainability for Walmart, regarding the company’s recent sustainability changes. See what is changing.

Why the change, and why now?

Sustainable packaging has always been a priority at Walmart as we progress in our sustainability journey, and we wanted to kick off this new playbook with an event where suppliers and merchants can gather together to learn about comprehensive best practices and get real-time answers to questions they might have.

As we continue to integrate our Sustainability Index into all areas of our business, including sustainable packaging, we wanted to highlight these practices so our suppliers have a better understanding of how they can improve their Index scores. The playbook will be updated as needed in the future to maintain pace with the most up-to-date best practices and innovations.

What are you seeing from consumers’ needs in packaging?

Recycling is important to our customers. Studies show that most Americans believe recycling is at least somewhat important (90%), but a majority of consumers (67%) would think a package wasn’t recyclable if it didn’t have a recycling symbol or language on it.

We want our customers to know when they can recycle the packaging from products purchased at Walmart, so we’re keeping them top-of-mind with these best practices by working to make on-package recycling information clearer. Through this playbook, we are working with our suppliers to encourage labeling that helps consumers recycle, such as How2Recycle labels.

We also want to alleviate consumer frustration with too much packaging, so our playbook addresses optimizing design – providing enough packaging to protect the product without excess.

Are the guidelines effective at Sam’s Clubs as well?

The playbook is designed for Walmart U.S. and Sam’s Clubs suppliers. Many of the same principles apply to our international businesses as well.

How is Walmart/Sam’s working on the Zero Waste initiative? Do you have any statistics from previous years?

Walmart’s approach to zero waste is focused on three strategies:

  • Eliminating waste in our own operations
  • Promoting improvement in package and product design
  • Expanding recycling through support for education and improved infrastructure

With overall waste, we’ve diverted from 82% of materials from landfills that were previously considered waste from Walmart U.S., and an average 71% from Walmart International. You can find more details on the Walmart zero waste approach in our 2016 Global Responsibility report: