A Behind the Scenes Look at Target's Sustainability Program
August 9, 2012
Tim Baer, executive vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary for Target, shared his company’s sustainability mission with CSRWire, and how it is mobilizing employees behind its mission and goals. Specifically, Baer discussed Target’s water conservation and packaging reduction initiatives.
Although the company missed its water conservation goals in 2011, Baer is confident about the future path the retailer is taking to achieve its objectives. According to the report, Target used 3.45 billion gallons of water, representing a 0.3 percent reduction in water use per square foot from its 2009 baseline.
“Although our absolute water use exceeded our initial baseline, we also increased our total real estate square footage, which led to a decrease in water use per square foot,” he said. “The most significant challenges we faced in 2011 were drought-like conditions in some of our mature markets like Texas, Minnesota and Iowa, where we have a relatively high concentration of stores requiring increased irrigation. This negative impact was modestly softened by our rollout of several water-saving initiatives, which we estimate will contribute a reduction of 1.4 percent annually starting this year.
Some of those water saving initiatives included expanded installation of smart irrigation controllers that irrigate based on real time local weather data in lieu of set times; use of ultra-low flow urinals and water closets, and elimination of continuously running dipper wells for ice cream and coffee stations at Target Café and Starbucks locations in the stores.
“We’re also in the process of installing real time water submeters in a number of stores to pinpoint the quantity of water a typical store uses for various operations,” Baer said. “This will help improve our evaluation of water-saving opportunities moving forward.”
Target has a goal of reducing owned-brand product packaging for at least 50 product designs by 2016, which CSRWire questioned if it was aggressive enough.
“While we’ve targeted 50 packaging designs, these changes will be implemented for a much larger number of items that use the same packaging,” Baer said. “We know environmental stewardship is important to Target guests, and our sustainable packaging designs will let them know that Target’s commitment to reducing our environmental impact begins before our products hit shelves,” he said, noting that over the next five years the retailer will develop sustainable packaging designs that yield at least a 10 percent improvement in one of several attributes of its existing owned-brand packaging.
“We’ll do this in several ways, including reducing overall packaging, using more recycled or renewable content, and reducing product waste,” Baer said. “We’ll also look to use more recyclable materials in our packaging, counting these improvements toward our goal only if the updated packaging is 100 percent recyclable.
Asked if Target has any plans of to “push suppliers and CPG partners into more responsible, transparent and environmentally friendly actions,” Baer said they do this primarily by leading by example. We “hope that by creating more sustainable packaging for our owned brands, we can inspire our suppliers, CPG partners and peers to implement more sustainable packages in their own products.”
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