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Surprise Of The Year: Wal-Mart Is Going Green

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The home of low, low prices, yellow smiley-faces, 99-cent lemonade pitchers and unhappy employees could be on the brink of shaking big-box retail to its very core. That's right; we're talking about Wal-Mart, and the news of what they are developing might keep you up at night re-evaluating your position on the much-despised discount chain.

According to Slate's The Big Money, Wal-Mart is buzzing with a project to become a referee of product sustainability; more specifically, "an ambitious, comprehensive, and fiendishly complex plan to measure the sustainability of every product it sells."

This was officially announced yesterday from Wal-Mart corporate, and the idea is to develop eco labels, similar to nutrition labels, revealing a product's green (or in many cases, less than green) details. Although it'll be between one and two more years before such labels appear on products, already the University of Arkansas and Arizona State University have agreed to provide scientific research to support the effort.

It's a huge coup for activists leaning on big box chains to assume responsibility for their environmental impact, just as it is crazy ambitious for Wal-Mart to do such an about-face. The ramifications of such eco labels would be huge for manufacturers of Walmart product; the hope being that pressure from a greener Wal-Mart, as well as from consumers more aware thanks to the labels, will also drive brands toward sustainable practices. We've got our fingers crossed.
· Wal-Mart unveils ambitious. eco-friendly program [LA Times]
· Wal-Mart's Sustainability Index: The Greenest Thing Ever To Happen To Retail? [Treehugger]
· Wal-Mart To Become Green Umpire [The Big Money]
· Post Op-Ed: What's So Bad About Wal-Mart? [Racked]