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ASU Sustainability News School of Sustainability News

July 16, 2009

Consortium of universities will collaborate with businesses, NGOs and governmental agencies to develop global database of information on the lifecycle of products

TEMPE, Ariz., FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Walmart, a world leader in sustainability announced today an investment that reaffirms its commitment to incorporating sustainable business practices throughout the entire consumer business supply chain. Through a revolutionary move, Walmart is helping create a consortium of universities, jointly administered by Arizona State University (ASU) and the University of Arkansas (UA).

Walmart’s initial investment will be dispersed equally to Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas; this partnership will conduct the development of a science-based, open source, product lifecycle assessment that will provide scientific innovations that lead to a new generation of sustainable products, materials, and technologies.

Through a collaborative process, Sustainability Consortium members, comprised of universities, that will collaborate with businesses, non-government organizations (NGOs), and governmental agencies will design and develop a sustainable product index for consumer products. This index will quantify the sustainable attributes of a product by examining them from raw materials to disposal.

Walmart officials emphasize that their intention is not to “own” the index and consider its strength in success to be its design as a globally shared and open platform tool. The index will drive innovation, highlight opportunities for cost savings and waste reduction, and create a common playing field for all. Further, The Consortium will be able to track how the index is reducing environmental impacts and driving innovation and green jobs.

"Developing indices to reliably compare products on their environmental performance, in addition to an open source database to support this, is a key step in the transition to a green economy. The EPA is very interested in this project and will follow it closely," said Clare Lindsay of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery.

"I feel a great sense of pride today as the first stage of our journey begins,” said Jay Golden, co-director of The Sustainability Consortium. “Today an idea has come to reality and it is even more exciting to envision the outcomes of the next part of this effort, as we create the science, technologies and strategies that vastly transform how businesses operate and how sustainability is infused into our everyday life."

The Sustainability Consortium is jointly directed by Dr. Jay Golden of the Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University and Dr. Jon Johnson of the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas. "Through The Sustainability Consortium, the University of Arkansas has a unique opportunity to influence the creation of a tool that will improve the decision-making abilities of consumers around the world," said Jon Johnson, executive director of the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas. "We will essentially be conducting research that enables customers to make informed, personal choices about the products they choose to use. Sustainability is, universally, a top priority, and our institution looks forward to working with other leaders in the field to make a visible difference. Arizona State University and the University of Arkansas are committed to leading an effort that will change the way people view their impact on the environment."

"We are at the beginning stages of something great," said University of Arkansas Chancellor G. David Gearhart. "This initiative will transform the way product value is measured, and I am very pleased that the University of Arkansas is playing a significant role in the growth and progress of sustainable practices."

At the core of its charge, The Sustainability Consortium will develop scientifically grounded tools to create life cycle inventories and analysis for thousands of products that are manufactured and used in geographies around the globe. This transparent database will eventually allow retailers and consumers the ability to examine one product against another in a variety of areas. The analysis will factor standardized data beginning with the acquisition of the raw materials, the manufacturing process and distribution channels, consumer use and post-use.

Additionally, The Consortium will provide decision and policy makers with a broader understanding of how new and innovative organizational strategies and technologies can assist in meeting various environmental, economic, and national security goals.

"As one of the world's largest corporations, Walmart is a proven and effective change agent in the movement toward a more sustainable future. By recognizing the necessity and power of broad, multi-sector, global collaboration, this scientific-based index will ultimately transform the consumer market as we know it today – from product source through disposal, from supplier to buyer – it is a transcendent model of doing good and doing well,” said Rob Melnick, executive dean of ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability.

About the Sustainability Consortium and Co-Directors Jay Golden and Jon Johnson:

The Sustainability Consortium is a partnership of researchers from leading global universities, businesses, non-government organizations (NGOs), and governmental agencies. The Consortium’s initial goal is to establish credible, transparent, and user-friendly scientific standards to measure the sustainability of consumer products.

Jay Golden is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainability and a faculty affiliate in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. Jon Johnson is the Walton Professor of Sustainability and director of the Applied Sustainability Center in the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

For more information about the Sustainability Consortium, visit:; for a list of the Consortium’s corporate, NGO, and agency partners, visit:

About Arizona State University and its Global Institute of Sustainability:

ASU has a vision to be a New American University, promoting excellence in its research and among its students and faculty, increasing access to its educational resources and working with communities to positively impact social and economic development. Further, ASU is a public institution where sustainability is a fundamental precept underlying its teaching, learning, research, and business missions; it seeks to create meaningful change by producing knowledge resulting in solutions to global problems of sustainability.

The Global Institute of Sustainability is the hub of ASU’s sustainability initiatives. The Institute advances research, education and business practices for an urbanizing world. Its School of Sustainability, the first of its kind in the US, offers transdisciplinary degree programs that advance practical solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges. For more information about the Global Institute of Sustainability, visit: Follow us on Twitter at asugreen.

About the University of Arkansas and its Applied Sustainability Center:

The University of Arkansas is at the forefront of research that looks at how retail commerce can be made more affordable and sustainable. From RFID research to transportation logistics, the university’s work contributes to cost savings, waste reduction and long-term sustainability. Visit the University of Arkansas’ sustainability Web site here:

The Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas leads organizations in the retail and consumer goods industries toward sustainable practices that support an economy built around people, planet and profit. This is accomplished by solving complex problems, providing expert guidance, brokering problems and solutions, and by sponsoring research. The center is part of the Sam M. Walton College of Business and serves multiple disciplines across campus.

For more information about the Applied Sustainability Center, visit:


Media Contacts:

Karen Leland, 480-965-0013 /

Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University

Danielle Strickland, 479-575-7346 /

University Relations, University of Arkansas