Safeway Inc. last week became the first U.S.-based grocery chain to join the Sustainability Consortium, a research group studying pollution and waste in global supply chain networks.

Led by Arizona State University and University of Arkansas researchers, the consortium is collecting information on “lifecycle impacts” of various food and agricultural categories, Safeway said in a March 1 statement.

The findings will identify “environmental opportunities” throughout the supply chain, Safeway said.

The consortium’s mission “is a good fit with Safeway’s efforts to provide its customers with a larger selection of sustainable products and services,” Larree Renda, Safeway’s chief strategist and administrative officer, said in the statement.

Large U.S. corporations are ramping so-called “sustainability” initiatives, aiming to save energy and pollute less amid growing public concern over the environment and lawmakers’ push to reduce carbon emissions.

In February, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it wants its suppliers to help it reach a goal to cut 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the retailer’s global supply chain by 2015.

It’s unclear what impact Safeway’s sustainability efforts will have on fresh fruit and vegetable growers and other suppliers.

Safeway is “engaged in a broad range of sustainability initiatives,” the Pleasanton, Calif.,-based company said in the March 1 statement, without providing specifics.

A Safeway spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a phone message.

Safeway joins other food industry or agricultural companies — including Cargill  Inc., General Mills Inc., PepsiCo. Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc. — as a Sustainability Consortium member. The consortium has about 40 total corporate members.

Other members include Best Buy Co., Walt Disney Co. and Wal-Mart, according to the group’s Web site.

The consortium is “building a new paradigm of strategies and technologies to tackle current and future sustainability imperatives,” according to the group’s Web site.

A consortium spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message.