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Arizona State and U Arkansas Working with Walmart on Green Index

Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville will lead a consortium of organizations to work with Walmart in developing a "green" index for the products it sells. Through a collaborative process, Sustainability Consortium members--comprising universities, businesses, non-government organizations, and governmental agencies--will design and develop a sustainable product index for consumer products. This index will quantify the sustainable attributes of a product by examining them from raw materials to disposal.

Walmart representatives emphasized that their intention is not to "own" the index and consider its strength in success to be its design as a globally shared and open platform tool. The Consortium hopes to be able to track how the index is reducing environmental impacts and driving innovation and green jobs.

"Developing indices to reliably compare products on their environmental performance, in addition to an open source database to support this is a key step in the transition to a green economy. The EPA is very interested in this project and will follow it closely," said Clare Lindsay of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.

"I feel a great sense of pride today as the first stage of our journey begins," said Jay Golden, co-director of the new consortium and assistant professor at Arizona State. "Today an idea has come to reality and it is even more exciting to envision the outcomes of the next part of this effort, as we create the science, technologies, and strategies that vastly transform how businesses operate and how sustainability is infused into our everyday life."

The Sustainability Consortium is jointly directed by Golden and Jon Johnson, who is also the executive director of the Applied Sustainability Center at U Arkansas.

"Through The Sustainability Consortium, the University of Arkansas has a unique opportunity to influence the creation of a tool that will improve the decision-making abilities of consumers around the world," said Johnson. "We will essentially be conducting research that enables customers to make informed, personal choices about the products they choose to use. Sustainability is, universally, a top priority, and our institution looks forward to working with other leaders in the field to make a visible difference."

At the core of its charge, the consortium will develop scientifically grounded tools to create lifecycle inventories and analysis for thousands of products that are manufactured and used in geographies around the globe. This transparent database will eventually allow retailers and consumers the ability to examine one product against another in a variety of areas. The analysis will factor standardized data beginning with the acquisition of the raw materials, the manufacturing process, and distribution channels, consumer use and post-use.

Additionally, the consortium will provide decision and policy makers with a broader understanding of how new and innovative organizational strategies and technologies can assist in meeting various environmental, economic, and national security goals.

"As one of the world's largest corporations, Walmart is a proven and effective change agent in the movement toward a more sustainable future," said Rob Melnick, executive dean of Arizona State's Global Institute of Sustainability. "By recognizing the necessity and power of broad, multi-sector, global collaboration, this scientific-based index will ultimately transform the consumer market as we know it today--from product source through disposal, from supplier to buyer--it is a transcendent model of doing good and doing well."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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