Retailer Guide | Walmart

Published June 12, 2023


Walmart has strict sustainable packaging goals for their Private Brands. Our guide is here to help set your brand up for success when working with Walmart.

Summary of Walmart's Goals

While Brand Suppliers do not have specific targets to hit, Walmart encourages sustainable packaging through their Project Gigaton and implementing THESIS (sustainability) scoring.

Walmart’s sustainable packaging playbook focuses on the following, in order of priority:

  • Ensure Product Protection

  • Reduce Materials

  • Eliminate Priority Chemicals

  • Design for Maximum Recyclability and Reject “Bad” Materials (such as PVC)

  • Source Sustainable Inputs

  • Clear Guidance and Labeling for Recyclability

  • Labeling to Support Environmental Claims

  • Where materials are hard to recycle, actively engage in improving recyclability

How EcoEnclose Helps Walmart Brands

EcoEnclose is well-positioned to help brands design their packaging in ways that align with Walmart’s sustainable packaging playbook and hierarchy. Reach out to us if you’d like support:

  • Eliminating undesirable materials, like PVC and PP film

  • Moving multi-layered films to mono-material, recyclable pouches

  • Creating easy-to-separate blister packs, clam shells, and boxes with windows

  • Match label material to the primary substrate to maximize recyclability

  • Maximize post-consumer waste across all materials

  • Helping brands secure How2Recycle® labeling

  • Eliminating coatings on paper packaging

Sustainable Packaging Goals for Private Brands

Walmart’s sustainable packaging goals are specifically focused on their Private Brands, which includes brands such as Great Value, Wonder Nation, Equate and Marketside.

Walmart’s goal is that 100% of its Private Brands packaging is recyclable, reusable, or industrially compostable and that at least 20% of its private brand plastic packaging is made with post-consumer recycled content. Walmart also states that it is “taking action” to eliminate problematic or unnecessary plastic packaging and move from single-use towards reuse models where relevant by 2025.

The specific actions that Walmart and Sam’s Club are taking to support these goals include the following. While most are focused on Private Brands, many are related to the overall in-store experience or national suppliers.

Eliminate and Replace Plastic

Eliminate all PVC and polystyrene.

Eliminate unnecessary plastic packaging in Walmart’s Private Brand products.

Provide customers with alternatives to single-use plastic household products (utensils, plates, and cups).

Promote reusable shopping bag use for our customers.

Emphasize Recycled and Recycling

Achieve 100% recyclable, reusable, or industrially -compostable packaging in Private Brands.

Develop guidance to support Walmart’s recyclability and recycled content goals for national suppliers.

Target 20% post-consumer recycled content in Private Brand packaging by 2025.

Label 100% of Private Brand packaging with the How2Recycle® label by 2022 and encourage national brand suppliers to make similar commitments.

Continue offering customers the opportunity to drop off plastic bags and plastic film materials.

Support System-wide Improvements

Work with governments, manufacturers, and other stakeholders to increase plastic recycling.

Become a signatory to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment and support major nonprofits supporting the issue - Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance.

While Walmart is making slow progress, as documented in this progress report, they remain far from their goals - with just two years remaining in their time horizon. Because of this, suppliers of their Private Brand's products are likely experiencing a lot of pressure to design for recyclability, minimize plastic, and maximize post-consumer waste when plastic is being used.

Private Brands suppliers must adhere to Walmart’s guidelines when reporting their annual packaging data.

Sustainable Packaging Goals for Brand Suppliers

Walmart’s primary sustainability initiative related to their non-Private Brands suppliers is Project Gigaton. Participating suppliers sign up, set targets, and take science-based measurable action to reduce or avoid emissions across six areas: energy use, nature, waste, packaging, transportation, and product use and design. Walmart aims to reduce or avoid one billion metric tons (a gigaton) of greenhouse gases from their global supply chain by 2030. Many brands supplying Walmart that have signed up for Project Gigaton set specific goals related to sustainable packaging.

Another of Walmart’s sustainability performance tools is THESIS (The Sustainability Insights System). Formerly known as the Sustainability Index, THESIS - created by The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) and powered by SupplyShift - is a sustainability performance tool that allows brands and manufacturers to understand the sustainability story of their products. Brands use this tool to complete assessments. The tool then generates assessments used by Walmart to identify key social and environmental hot spots and set supplier improvement priorities. Suppliers can see their scores and how they rank relative to the field and gain insight into improvement opportunities for each of the categories they supply.

To support brands in increasing their THESIS score and achieving their Project Gigaton goals, Walmart has developed its own Sustainable Packaging Playbook (a guidebook for suppliers to improve packaging sustainability) and a supplement Recycling Playbook. These guides are comprehensive, well laid out, and great resources for any brand selling into Walmart and participating in Project Gigaton.

Overview of Walmart’s Sustainable Packaging Guidelines

As you’ll see from these guidelines, Walmart’s primary goal is successfully protecting and presenting the product. Once this is achieved, the primary sustainability goal is to maximize recyclability. Secondary goals include increasing post-consumer waste and building a stronger infrastructure for recycling.

Ensure Product Protection:

Packaging must be designed to meet product protection International Safe Transit Authority (ISTA) standards.

Reduce Materials:

Eliminate packaging components or layers, “right size” packaging, and shift to reusable containers.

Eliminate Priority Chemicals:

Ensure packaging is free of chemicals that meet the criteria for classification as a carcinogen, mutagen, reproductive toxicant, persistent, bioaccumulative toxicant or is associated with “scientific evidence of probable serious effects to human health or the environment which give rise to an equivalent level of concern.”

Design for Maximum Recyclability:

  • Prioritize mono-materials wherever possible versus packaging made with different materials.
  • Prioritize widely recyclable materials, including aluminum, paperboard, glass, PET, and HDPE versus PP.
  • Reject materials things in Walmart’s “avoid” list (see below).
  • Minimize non-material aligned components such as zippers, buttons, labels, closures that are a different material than the packaging. Make these attachments easy to separate such as a blister pack for a toothbrush. Plastic should easily come away from paper.

Source Sustainable Inputs:

Maximize recycled content, and PCR in particular. Look for FSC® certified paper. PEFC and SFI are less preferred by Walmart than FSC® certified.

Clear Guidance and Labeling for Recyclability:

All brands are encouraged to utilize How2Recycle® labeling.

Labeling to Support Environmental Claims:

Third-party verification and certification are encouraged to support claims.

Improve Recyclability of Hard-to-Recycle Materials:

While Walmart’s messaging and guidance around this point are vague, its material encourages brands to work to improve infrastructure for hard-to-recycle packaging and products.

Packaging Materials To Avoid

  • Metallized films

  • Multilayer materials

  • PVC or PVDC

  • EPS or PS

  • PETG in rigid plastic packaging

  • Oxo-degradable

  • Undetectable carbon black

  • Colored PET

  • Biodegradable additives in petroleum-based plastics

Minimize the following to optimize recyclability:

  • Label-to-packaging ratio

  • Mixed material labeling such as paper on plastic or one type of plastic on a different plastic. For example, a PP label on HDPE bottle, plastic on paper, or foil on paper or plastic.

Preferred Packaging Materials

  • Uncoated Paperboard and Corrugate: Recycled or FSC® certified virgin

  • PET: Maximum PCR possible, recycle-friendly labels preferred

  • PE (HDPE, LDPE, LLDPE): Maximize PCR possible, recycled friendly labels preferred

  • Aluminum

  • Glass: Where appropriate; glass is heavy, breakable, and requires a more complicated and material intensive packaging system

Sustainable Packaging Solutions

EcoEnclose Is Ready To Help Your Brand

Is your brand currently working with Walmart, or is actively looking to be carried at Walmart or Sam’s Club stores?

EcoEnclose can help you develop retail packaging solutions that meet their sustainability guidelines and help you put your best foot forward.

Here are specific ways we’ve helped supplier brands for Walmart:

pouch for gummies

Eliminate PVC and PP film

PVC and PP are very inexpensive, and PP is very clear. However, these are not commonly recyclable, and PVC is particularly toxic and should be avoided by all brands. We help brands replace these materials with LDPE (thin-film recyclable), often at very thick gauges, to provide the customer experience and protection they seek.

Design with readily recycled materials

We help brands move from multi-layered films and packaging towards solutions made entirely of a single, readily recyclable material. For example, we are helping coffee brands move from foil-lined pouches to paper-based pouches that are curbside recyclable and home-compostable.

Design for easy separation of mixed materials

When a brand's packaging solution requires two materials, we help brands design for easy separation of those materials and to ensure each material is readily recyclable. Blister packs, clam shells, and boxes with windows are examples of this type of packaging in action.

Match label material to primary packaging

We help brands match their label material to the primary substrate of their packaging. If your bottles are HDPE, we can provide LDPE labels. If your boxes are paper-based, we can provide paper labels.

Maximize post-consumer waste

We help brands maximize post-consumer waste across all packaging, a big win as Walmart awards more points when packaging is made out of PCW.

Secure verifications

We help brands secure How2Recycle® labeling and, when relevant, other third-party verifications.

Minimize paper coating

We help brands move away from coatings on paper by eliminating them or moving to clay coatings when needed.

Packaging, Labeling, and Testing Requirements

While Walmart does not currently fine or ban suppliers who don’t comply with their sustainable packaging guidelines, the retailer does have several efficiency-focused requirements in place as part of their Supplier Quality Excellence Program (SQEP). Many of these requirements are found in Walmart's Supply Chain Standards guide.

SQEP requires suppliers to implement specific processes, and this may mean that some brands must undergo ISTA testing to ensure their packaging complies. Read on for a very brief summary of SQEP requirements.

Overview of the Supplier Quality Excellence Program (SQEP)

Phase 1: PO Accuracy and ASN Accountability

To comply with PO and ASN expectations, Walmart specifically seeks:

  • Item Setup Information – verifying item information is accurate and complete.

  • Parent-Child UPC accuracy – ensuring a child UPC is linked to the parent UPC.

  • Canceled Line adherence – suppliers can not ship against a line item after it has been canceled.

  • Canceled PO adherence – suppliers can not ship against a purchase order after it has been canceled.

  • Overage errors – POs shipped may not exceed the quantity ordered by Walmart.

  • Allocation issues – issues involving a sort versus a non-sort or assigned to the wrong store.

  • Wrong Pack quantity – the quantity specified on the purchase order does not match the quantity shipped to the Walmart store or distribution center.

  • Item Not on PO – item(s) shipped to a Walmart store or distribution center do not match item(s) on the purchase order.

  • Recall or Withdrawal shipments – items in the shipment have been recalled or withdrawn.

  • Not Walmart Freight – the shipment received by Walmart was not freight intended to be delivered to Walmart.

  • No ASN – an ASN label is not located on the case.

  • ASN not Downloaded – an ASN was not sent, or the ASN could not be downloaded.

  • ASN Mismatch – purchase order line where an ASN is present, but the ASN quantity and quantity received do not match.

  • Imagery issues – for items, incomplete or inaccurate item descriptions.

Phase 2: Labeling and Barcode Accuracy

This phase covered the accuracy of shipping labels. Suppliers also need to verify case labels are scannable and that the information is correct. Under the labeling and bar code umbrella, Walmart is looking for accuracy on:

  • Barcode compliance – ensuring all barcodes are correct, in the required format, in the correct quantity, and contain no defects.

  • Label compliance – all labels are accounted for with accurate descriptions, correct vendor stock numbers, correct item numbers, and contain no defects.

  • Hazmat compliance – required hazmat labels are in place and free from obstruction.

Phase 3: Pallet, Load, and Packaging

This rollout portion emphasized the basics like box quality, pallet integrity, and load shifts. Walmart is holding suppliers responsible for:

  • Load Stability – ensuring loads are palletized, stable, have not shifted, and have no other stability issues.

  • Load Segregation – segregation by purchase order type, item, or other defects.

  • Pallet Quality – verifying pallets comply with Grade A standards, required size, and are defect-free.

  • Pallet Securement – ensuring pallets are secured properly, not missing trays, and defects-free.

  • Pallet Build – pallets may not overhang, exceed the required height, or contain other build defects.

  • Pallet Labeling – pallets must be properly labeled and free of label defects.

  • Packaging Compliance – packaging will be checked for weak tape, glue, perforations, poor or loose wrap, unsecured selling units, missing trays, and other packaging defects

Phase 4: Scheduling and Transportation

Walmart has not completed Phase 4 of SQEP.

The most current information on fines suggests that brands are fined $200 per impacted PO and $1 per case on that PO - for any orders that don’t comply with SQEP.

It is also worth noting that Walmart has OTIF fines in place - On-Time In-Full. This is a compliance measure of how a supplier’s freight arrives at a Walmart store or distribution center. As its name states, Walmart asks two questions about each supplier delivery:

  1. Did the shipment arrive on time? Walmart assigns a specific drop-off window for each delivery. The delivery is considered on time if it arrives within the window. Early and late deliveries may be subject to monetary penalties charged to the supplier.

  2. Did the shipment arrive in full? The expectation is that what the supplier delivers to Walmart matches what is listed on the purchase order (PO). Any discrepancies in quantity or product may result in monetary penalties charged back to the supplier.

Monetary penalties are also calculated on a percentage of the order. If a supplier fails to meet the OTIF guidelines on delivery, they are fined 3% of the cost of goods in the order. What’s important to note is how the 3% is drastically different whether you’re falling short on the on-time versus in-full metric.

Looking for Guidance?

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