As if supply chain management didn’t have enough to worry about with the price of fuel, Wal-Mart has set a new precedent for the level of information consumers can expect on products.

The US grocery giant has set itself stringent goals on its environmental and social impact and has now stepped this up a gear with one product line, allowing consumers access to information on the products they buy all along the supply chain.

It is taking traceability to new levels to prove the provenance and history of the gold, silver and diamonds used in its Love, Earth jewellery range.

Each piece in the range comes with an identifying code. Customers can log on to a web site to find out about their particular piece of jewellery – where it was mined and manufactured etc. The site also provides information about the standards used to select suppliers and the sustainability standards that they adhere to, including environmental, human rights and community issues.

Talk of data collection and management, especially collecting data along the supply chain, can be pretty dry. Much of the work done to improve the collection and transfer of data along the supply chain has been for efficiency reasons. But this example shows that by taking a lead in traceability, a retailer can turn it into a selling point.

Last night on TV, Janet Street Porter implored the public to think more about the traceability of the meat they eat. Having just reared two calves for slaughter as part of Gordon Ramsey’s The F-Word programme, that’s perhaps easy for her to say. There is nothing more traceable than veal that you have hand reared and then watched being slaughtered.

Television producers have lately also created programmes to highlight some of the less savoury conditions that workers who produce value clothing work in, with several aired on the subject.

Media coverage such as this makes consumers question where the products they buy have come from and what’s been involved in their manufacture.

Initiatives such as the one at Wal-Mart are only small steps in the direction of providing them with answers. But it signals a shift from retailers asking customers to trust them, to proving that they can.