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Home Depot’s Eco Options Program Gets Big Response From Suppliers

When Home Depot asked suppliers to make a pitch to have their products included in its Eco Options label program, almost a third of the products the retailer sells applied for inclusion, The New York Times reports.

Plastic-handled paint brushes were touted as nature-friendly because they were not made of wood. Wood-handled paint brushes were promoted as better for the planet because they were not made of plastic.

“Most of what you see today in the green movement is voodoo marketing,” said Ron Jarvis, a Home Depot senior vice president who oversees the Eco Options program.

Only 2,500 of the products, including solar-powered landscape lighting, biodegradable peat pots and paints that discharge fewer pollutants, made the cut.

Home Depot is working with Scientific Certification Systems to develop new broad-based standards that will grade a product based on its environmental record over its entire life cycle – including the sustainability of its production process, its efficiency and longevity and how it can be recycled when it is no longer useful.

Third-party environmental certifications – aimed at specific areas – already exist. The Marine Stewardship Council covers seafood; VeriFlora certifies flowers; and Green Seal puts its stamp on government and corporate buying.

Stonyfield Farm is expected to announce that Climate Counts, a nonprofit group it helped found, will independently evaluate leading consumer-products companies’ efforts to manage their climate effect. The idea is to create a metric that will allow consumers to compare, say, McDonald’s and Burger King.

Burt’s Bees has established its own standard to define natural personal-care products, vowing to follow its own rules as it works to get other players in the industry to endorse its standard too.

The question is whether or not retailers, with programs like Eco Options, can change the way suppliers operate. In addition to Home Depot, retailers such as Wal-Mart and Office Depot have been flexing their corporate environmental power lately, extending their green policies beyond their own operations to impact suppliers and consumers. Wal-Mart, for example, is helping to push a repackaging trend along by encouraging its 66,000 suppliers to reduce their packaging starting next year as part of its goal of cutting overall packaging five percent by 2013.

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