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Wal-Mart strives for sustainability
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Global retailing giant Wal-Mart opened its first energy-efficient store in Beijing recently, which it said was part of its shift toward sustainability in China.

Shoppers at a new Wal-Mart store in Beijing's Wangjing area. [China Daily]

Shoppers at a new Wal-Mart store in Beijing's Wangjing area. [China Daily]

The company said the new Beijing store, with a total area of 17,524 sq m, represents a new trend in the nation's retail sector.

"Our energy consumption can be divided into three main parts: lighting, which accounts for about 25 percent; air conditioning, 30 percent; and refrigerating, 20 percent," Michael Lai, senior facilities manager of Wal-Mart China, told China Daily.

"These are the three areas we considered first when launching our sustainable store plan."

Wal-Mart's new store uses LEDs as its general lighting source to save energy. Sliding glass doors are used in refrigerators and coolers to conserve energy, and water running from the refrigeration system is purified and reused.

To save more energy, the entire store is equipped with motion sensors to control lighting during non-peak hours and in low traffic areas. Every floor has at least 12 units of motion sensors covering the entire floor area.

Wal-Mart said it believes the only way to stimulate sustainable development is to enhance people's awareness. Compared to a typical store in 2005, the new outlet will use 23 percent less electricity and consume 17 percent less water annually.

In addition to hardware, Wal-Mart is applying the concept throughout the entire supply chain and its associates.

"We have set up a program named 'direct farm', first in Guangdong province last year," said Ricky Wong, director of merchandising at Wal-Mart. Guizhou and Dalian will join the program soon.

The plan aims to remodel the entire chain of supply from seeding to packaging, Wong said.

"We train farmers to plant crops according to our safety and food standards, and then we purchase their products."

He said that the firm recently helped farmers near Dalian in Liaoning province to switch to organic cultivation.

Ron Virta, vice-president of merchandise development of Wal-Mart China, explained that existing stores will be fitted with more sustainable equipment, with the old machinery serving as a back up.

"We expect we can finish the refit of all 113 stores in three to five years," Virta said.

(China Daily October 23, 2008)

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