Wal-Mart Says Buying Green Going Mainstream

On the eve of celebrating Earth Day, Wal-Mart yesterday issued new consumer research that it said demonstrates that shoppers are considering the environment before making a purchase.

The retailer announced an adoption rate increase of 66 percent from last year in its sustainability Live Better Index, which has been tracking consumers' decisions to purchase five key eco-friendly products since April 2007.

The sustainability Live Better Index follows the adoption rates -- sales compared to other products in the category -- of five eco-friendly products based on Wal-Mart sales data. The overall adoption rate of these products serves as a nationwide trend indicator of consumer demand for 'green' products, according to Wal-Mart. These products were selected because consumers can make a conscious decision to purchase them for their environmental and cost-saving benefits versus other products in the same category, it said.

"When the sustainability Live Better Index was established, we wanted to help Americans understand that environmental choices were accessible and affordable for everyone," said Stephen Quinn, chief marketing officer at Wal-Mart, in a statement. "The fact that product adoption has increased dramatically in one year shows that the decisions our customers make in the aisles coupled with Wal-Mart's commitment to providing more eco-friendly choices at the best value is helping consumers and the planet live better together."

The sustainability Live Better Index data for April 2008 show a 37 percent increase in adoption of organic milk and a 47 percent increase in adoption of compact fluorescent light bulbs since April 2007. In October 2007, Wal-Mart began a nationwide transition to sell only concentrated liquid laundry detergent as part of its commitment at the Clinton Global Initiative. As a whole, adoption rates of the five sustainable Live Better products have increased significantly over the past year:
1. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs - Average adoption rate of 19.7 percent (up from 13.39 percent in 2007). Delaware leads the category with an adoption rate of 25.8 percent.

2. Organic baby food and formula - Average adoption rate of 4.12 percent (down from 4.31 percent). California continues to lead the category with an 8.58 percent adoption rate.

3. Organic milk - Average adoption rate of 1.58 percent (up from 1.15 percent). Virginia has the highest adoption rate of organic milk at 2.7 percent.

4. Extended life paper products - Average adoption rate of 67.5 percent (up from 50.77 percent). Minnesota has the highest adoption rate with 78.1 percent.
5. Concentrated/reduced-packaging liquid laundry detergents - Average adoption rate of 76.3 percent (up from 22.86 percent). Oklahoma leads the category with an adoption rate of 96.3 percent.

To reflect the growing consumer preference for eco-friendly products, Wal-Mart said it will now track additional product categories, including sustainable coffee and eco-friendly cleaning products, in the Live Better Index. These additions follow the introduction of the Sam's Choice coffee (April 2008) and Clorox Green Works (Jan. 2008) lines to Wal-Mart stores.

Other "green" trends across the country, according to Wal-Mart's findings, include:
-- California is now the "greenest" Wal-Mart state in the country, surpassing last year's leader New Hampshire, with an average adoption rate of 38.8 percent.
-- New Mexico had made the most progress since 2007 with a more than 96 percent increase in their overall adoption rates.
-- In just three months, eco-friendly cleaning products garnered a 4.8 percent adoption rate across the United States.
-- Washington leads the way for sustainable coffees with a 0.7 percent adoption rate.
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