Going Green Is Big on DVD With a Wal-Mart Push19 Oct, 2007 By: Chris Tribbey
It's no secret: Wal-Mart is the Al Gore of retailers when it comes to the environment.
The leading DVD retailer embarked on a bold environmental plan in 2005, calling for a 30% reduction in energy used in stores, a 25% increase in vehicle efficiency, a 25% reduction in solid waste by the end of 2008 and a 5% reduction in suppliers' packaging by 2013.
That last one already is having wide-ranging effects on the home entertainment industry.
“Wal-Mart encourages any and all product packaging improvements that are sustainable and environmentally friendly,” said Tara Raddohl, senior spokeswoman for Wal-Mart. “If our home media suppliers can reduce their product packaging in a safe, sustainable way, then we welcome their improvements and look forward to working with them in their efforts to reduce packaging.”
Wal-Mart is going so far as to grade its suppliers on their packaging. Currently in a one-year trial period, and starting officially in February 2008, DVD suppliers will be judged by Wal-Mart on their “ability to use less packaging, use more effective materials in packaging and source these materials more efficiently relative to other suppliers,” Raddohl said.
Raddohl said the scorecard, which measures recycled materials, will help the retailer rank DVD suppliers against other product suppliers.
In late September Wal-Mart partnered with the Carbon Disclosure Project to measure the energy used by seven product suppliers, including DVD, in their supply chain. Wal-Mart has worked with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment first to see how DVD suppliers can be more environmentally friendly in production, manufacturing and distribution.
“The whole idea is first of all to make it more sustainable and second to reduce carbon emissions,” said Steve Feldstein, SVP of corporate and marketing communications for Fox. “What we've undertaken with Wal-Mart in particular is we've basically estimated the entire carbon footprint of DVD, from when it's handed off from theatrical, goes to replication and lands on Wal-Mart's shelf.”
Wal-Mart reported that more than 20 of Fox's suppliers offered details on their energy use and emissions, leading to an industry standard for measuring the carbon impact of the DVD industry.
“This is an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing non-renewable energy from the products Wal-Mart sells,” said John Fleming, EVP and chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart's Stores Division. “This is an opportunity to spur innovation and efficiency throughout our supply chain that will not only help protect the environment but save people money at the same time.”
Feldstein said the next step is the formation of committees in the home entertainment world, to evaluate more companies' supply chains to “educate and inform, not preach.”
Alice Calamar, director of print production and purchasing for New Line Home Entertainment, said Wal-Mart's “green” push is helping DVD suppliers, who know better than to use paper used from clear-cut trees or environmentally unfriendly ink.
“We're waiting to see if they come up with something else,” she said. “I'm always on the lookout on how to make [DVD] packages greener.”
Sofia Chang, SVP of marketing and creative services for HBO Video, said the company was eager to incorporate green policies, with several titles out that used environmentally friendly materials such as chip board made from recycled goods. She added that HBO's DVD release of the documentary Too Hot Not to Handle had an outer package made from recycled chip board, an inner disc cartridge made from 30% post consumer waste and featured soy-based inks.
DVD packaging firms, in addition to studios, are feeling the heat from Wal-Mart to go green.
“It's true that Wal-Mart is pushing very hard for a reduction in packaging,” said Frank Salvaggio, GM of DVD packaging company Ross-Ellis.
The Canadian company launched an environmentally friendly DVD package product line in September, including options that store more discs in less space and are made of 100% recycled board and plastic.
“Slimmer packages need less retail space,” Salvaggio said, adding that given the two new disc formats, HD DVD and Blu-ray, Wal-Mart had to make more shelf space available.
“Also, the studios are realizing that the slimmer and lighter DVD packaging will save them significant dollars in storage and freight costs — good for the bottom line and good for the environment,” he said.
Another packaging company, Shorewood Packaging, in September launched “greenchoice,” an initiative that offers DVD suppliers renewable paper and paperboard options, renewable ink choices, alternative materials for DVD trays, and “ways to minimize a company's carbon footprint.”
Jun Flores, president of ACE Packaging Inc., said Wal-Mart is pushing the industry where it's been slowly moving for years. Fewer DVD packages with varnished paper and glued plastic are showing up in stores.
“As far as industries are concerned, we've always been concerned about waste because it affects cost,” he said.
Wal-Mart's Raddohl said packaging is just the start of the retailers' push for more environmentally friendly DVD suppliers.
“Whether it's increasing their fleet efficiency, reducing the distance their products travel, or exploring alternative fuels and renewable energy within their supply chain, DVD/HD suppliers, like many of our suppliers, have an opportunity to reduce their environmental impact by implementing sustainable practices into their business operations,” she said.