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Wal-Mart’s Green Electronics Goal Faces Challenges

Wal-Mart set the goal of one day using only renewable energy and creating zero waste, and it challenged its suppliers to similar goals. To help meet that goal, Wal-Mart had an enormously successful campaign for green packaging, but its move into green electronics is proving a bit more complicated, Reuters reports.Part of the problem is that there are no uniform federal regulations for energy consumption or recycling. “We’d like to see some kind of federal legislation that would take all the individual state programs and bring it together,” said Kevin O’Connor, Wal-Mart’s general merchandising manager for consumer electronics.

Still, to help tackle the problem, this year Wal-Mart is having its suppliers fill out scorecards to rate their products on green issues, such as energy use and ease of recycling. But recycling green electronics isn’t easy. Hewlett-Packard and Dell have their own recycling programs – imagine the logistical nightmare if Wal-Mart’s 61,000 U.S. suppliers followed suit.

And then there’s the issue of cost for greener materials. “That’s one of the reasons the bad stuff was used in the first place,” said Accenture Global Managing Director Allen Delattre. “It was cheaper.” One thing Wal-Mart wants to avoid is charging more for green products. Delattre said one way Wal-Mart could deal with the higher prices is to tell consumers that a product might cost more upfront but would bring future savings.

But Wal-Mart is still committed to green electronics, largely because they benefit both the environment and the bottom line. By 2013, it will save $3.4 billion by reducing packing 5 percent. “Even if you’re against the idea that climate change is important,” said Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott at the company’s annual meeting, “why in God’s name would you be against saving money?”

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