Wal-Mart is developing a worldwide sustainable product index for suppliers in an attempt to establish a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of products.

The initiative will run in three phases: surveying its more than 100,000 suppliers; helping create a consortium of universities that will collaborate with suppliers, retailers and NGOs to develop a global database of information on the life cycle of products; and to translate the product information into a simple rating for consumers about the sustainability of products.

Wal-Mart president and chief executive Mike Duke said: “Customers want products that are more efficient, that last longer and perform better. And increasingly they want information about the entire life cycle of a product so they can feel good about buying it… We do not see this as a trend that will fade.”