This article is about Target being the first big-box retailer to include sustainability in their business strategy.
Profits are the lifeblood of a business; any large business will tend to focus on their bottom-line before they branch out into other ventures. However, with the growing public demand for sustainable business practices, as well as increasing incentives from regulators, businesses are primed to make the big leap forward into a more sustainable future. But the question remained who would be among the first.
As of 2021, Target has come out as the first big-box retailer to include sustainability in their business strategy. This marks a moment in history where modern retailers are beginning to make sustainability one of their primary objectives. Throughout the green movement and the rise of sustainability, businesses have for the most part dabbled in periphery initiatives. Target now seeks to integrate sustainability into the very core of its business strategy.
Like any large and long-running corporation in the United States, Target has often taken small measures to hint at environmental awareness. It was not until the early 2000s that Target began committing itself to sustainability in a more direct and straightforward manner. In 2007, under the direction of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Target began adopting more environmentally friendly practices throughout its stores.
This included increasing recycling, promoting reusable shopping bags, a garment hanger reuse program, reducing energy and water wastage, and in some locations, switching over exclusively to renewable energy sources. Target also began to offer more environmentally sustainable brands and products within their stores, presenting their customers with more opportunities to make sustainable choices. All of these initiatives were productive and presented an opportunity for real change within their business operations.
However, despite their success in some respects, Target’s previous ventures into sustainability were somewhat lacking.
As of 2021, Target has come out as the first big-box retailer to include sustainability in their business strategy.
Brian Cornell, the Chairman and CEO of Target, announced Target Forward. This new strategy will focus on integrating sustainable initiatives throughout the company, with set goals long into the future to help guide them. Cornell did not fail to emphasize the importance of Target Forward, stating it was specially designed to touch on every aspect of the business, broaden previous sustainability initiatives, and facilitate collaboration and encourage new partnerships.
When discussing Target’s commitment to this new direction, Cornell indicated the positive influence sustainability had on business resilience and growth. This is undoubtedly true, as many of the businesses that step ahead of the curb are able to innovate and ensure their company’s longevity, well before regulations or public opinions shift.
As stated in the announcement, the new Target Forward strategy is built on three main ambitions: design and elevate sustainable brands, innovate to eliminate waste, and accelerate opportunity and equity. The flexibility hidden within these ambitions hint at Target’s new approach to sustainability. Target views sustainability as an interconnected system in their company, so they have undertaken a holistic approach to cover as much ground as possible.
This view becomes clearer when you examine their key goals.
There are two stages of goals in this strategy. The first stage will be reached in approximately ten years, by 2030. Firstly, Target would like the primary raw materials used in their brand products to be completely recycled, renewable, or sustainably sourced. Secondly, they would like to reduce their landfill waste to zero in the US. The second stage of goals will be reached in approximately twenty years, by 2040. Firstly, they aim to give all of their brand products a circular future. Secondly, they would like to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions across their enterprise.
An important distinction between these goals and their previous initiatives in 2007 is their scope. These goals are designed for direct and quantifiable results, while their previous initiatives were simply aimed at making changes, without analyzing their benefit and overall contribution to a sustainable future. Another significant point to note is the wide reach of their ambitions. They are not exclusively pursuing environmental sustainability, climate sustainability, or humanitarian changes. Instead, they are taking large steps to ensure all these bases are covered.
Target Forward is a revolutionary initiative among US retailers. Holding themselves accountable, Target has shown a willingness and true motivation to achieve sustainability.
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