IMAGE: WALMART STORE
Tim Sloan  /  AFP - Getty Images
Wal-Mart's Supercenter stores typically sell 200,000 items in thousands of categories. Seven of those categories will be tracked to determine their energy use and global warming impact.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/24/2007 12:09:26 PM ET 2007-09-24T16:09:26

What exactly did it take to make that beer you're drinking? Retail giant Wal-Mart said Monday it will partner with a nonprofit climate group to measure the amount of energy used to create beer — as well as six other product categories sold at its stores.

The goal, said Wal-Mart and its partner the Carbon Disclosure Project, is to then find ways to make products more efficiently and, in the process, reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases tied to global warming.

A typical Wal-Mart Supercenter, which combines a full grocery section with general merchandise, carries about 200,000 items in thousands of categories.

So looking at just seven product categories — DVDs, toothpaste, soap, milk, beer, vacuum cleaners and soda — might not seem like much, but Wal-Mart Executive Vice President John Fleming called it "an important first step toward reaching our goal of removing non-renewable energy from the products Wal-Mart sells."

Wal-Mart said those seven categories were chosen "because they are ordinary products that customers commonly use."

"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," Fleming added.

The Carbon Disclosure Project called the partnership "a significant milestone in corporate action to mitigate climate change."

"By engaging its supply chain in the CDP process, Wal-Mart will encourage its suppliers to measure and manage their greenhouse gas emissions, and ultimately reduce the total carbon footprint of Wal-Mart’s indirect emissions," said CDP Chief Executive Paul Dickinson. "We look forward to other global corporations following Wal-Mart’s lead and partnering with CDP."

Companies surveyed
The non-profit on Monday also released a survey showing that the world's biggest companies are making energy use a bigger priority, in part through more widespread disclosure of carbon emissions.

"The big thing this year is the huge increase in the level of seriousness with which climate change is being incorporated into the corporate strategy of companies," Dickinson said.

Among the 500 companies ranked by the Financial Times newspaper as the world’s largest by market capitalization, 75 percent responded to this year’s survey, up from 47 percent when the survey started four years ago.

The response rate by companies in North America rose in all industry sectors, and nine of 10 sectors had a response rate of more than 50 percent. The increased willingness by companies to disclose their carbon emissions and find ways to reduce them reflects the changing political and regulatory landscape over energy efficiency.

Of the companies that responded, 76 percent implemented programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, compared with 48 percent last year.

The group also launched the Climate Disclosure Leadership Index, a smaller group of 68 companies including Citigroup, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hewlett-Packard. and General Motors.

Clinton backs group
The nonprofit group is supported by 315 institutional investors, including Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. Those investors have a total of more than $41 trillion under management.

Former President Clinton, who appeared with the nonprofit group to release the report, said Monday that the U.S. has missed out on the biggest job-creation engine in years by ignoring the need to combat climate change through reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Clinton said the U.S. had ignored the climate change problem, and in doing so, passed up the chance to create jobs the way Britain has by deciding to exceed the carbon reduction goals set in the Kyoto protocol, which the U.S. has not signed.

“We walked away from the only low-hanging fruit,” Clinton said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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