Target Talks Going Big in Responsible Sourcing and Sustainable Design

November 14, 2016 - Article reads in
Three women weaving rugs at a factory. Photo © U. Roberto Romano, courtesy of GoodWeave

Target has a long history of being a good corporate citizen and trusted brand. We’re proud to say it’s something guests already love about the bullseye—and now, we’re taking our pledge to a new level.

“More than ever, our guests want to know where their products come from; to be sure those products are made ethically and responsibly,” says Kelly Caruso, president, Target Sourcing Services. “We recognize that reassuring guests isn’t enough—so we’re committing to using more sustainable resources, helping to make life better for workers and their families, and protecting the environment. These efforts will also help us build resilient supply chains to support our business now and in the future.”

As a global company, Target can make a big impact—but it takes a team effort to create change this size. By sharing our resources, innovating and offering a transparent view of our work with partners around the world, we can support economic, social and environmental development and achieve greater good.

Today, Target is announcing commitments in three important areas—improving worker well-being, achieving net-positive manufacturing and deriving key raw materials from ethical and sustainable sources—and aiming to make significant progress by 2020. Let’s take a closer look:

Target’s Responsible Sourcing Aspirations for 2020

Monitor for forced labor throughout our supply chain and take swift action to eliminate it if discovered
Enhance worker safety throughout our supply chain
Elevate worker well-being throughout our supply chain
Identify and remove all unwanted chemicals from Target owned-brand products and manufacturing, and encourage all supporting industries to incorporate green chemistry principles
OPTIMIZE WATER USE Drive sustainable water stewardship in Target owned-brand product design and manufacturing
Drive clean energy through reduced air emissions in our supply chair
Support responsibly managed forests and palm oil production
Champion responsibly grown and harvested cotton and ensure that it's used in our owned-brand products

Replace all conventional polyester with polyester made from recycled plastic in Target owned-brand apparel, accessories and home products

Improving worker well-being is about enriching and protecting the people who create our products, the families they support and the communities where they live and work.

“It’s an ambitious challenge,” Kelly says, “that will touch the lives of at least 3 million people in the factories and surrounding communities where Target’s owned-brand goods are produced. We’ll do it by opening up access to things like women’s empowerment initiatives, education and training.”

One recent example? Target’s work with nonprofit partner GoodWeave in support of its mission to end child labor in the rug industry. We’d previously worked together to certify Target’s owned-brand rugs as child-labor free. Last year, we teamed up again to develop a technology platform that monitors for human trafficking risks in our supply chain in India. The project answered a call from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for concepts to collect real-time data from partners closest to the problem.

Achieving net-positive manufacturing is about working with partners to protect and improve the environment and build sustainable communities.

To make progress, we’ll concentrate on introducing sustainable elements and practices throughout our business—like using water responsibly in our owned-brand product design and manufacturing, opting for more clean energy and reducing air emissions in our supply chain, and removing unwanted chemicals from our products and manufacturing processes. We’ll also help communities restore and replenish their resources, like ensuring that water from manufacturing is safe to drink or supports aquatic life.

“This is more than just reducing Target’s footprint,” Kelly says. “It’s going beyond to restore and improve these areas for future generations. And the reality is, no single company or organization can create that kind of long-term systemic change alone—the only way to make it happen is by collaborating with suppliers, governments and NGOs across our industry.”

Transparency will help us get there, making it easier to spot the areas where we can make improvements. This fall, for example, Target was an industry leader in publishing our tier 2 factory matrix, giving increased visibility deeper into our supply chain.

Sustainably and ethically sourcing key raw materials will mean making improvements not only to new products, but also sustainable production. Things like championing responsibly grown and harvested cotton, replacing all conventional polyester with polyester made from recycled plastic in our owned-brand apparel, accessories and home products, and supporting responsible forest practices and palm oil production.

“We want our owned-brand assortment to empower our guests to have a positive social and environmental impact,” Kelly says. “By offering more sustainably-focused products, they’ll be able to choose items that help them lead better, healthier lives.”

So how are we pushing the envelope in this space? Recently, for example, Target became an early adopter of a program with Evrnu, a fiber technology company that developed a regenerative, sustainable technology from post-consumer cotton garment waste. Through the partnership, we’re funding research that will revolutionize how we create great products with less impact.

These commitments are just the beginning. Going forward, we’ll share more of our plans and stories behind this work, increasingly focusing on sustainable product design, our commitment to transparency, and launching and reporting on specific, ambitious goals. 

Photo © U. Roberto Romano, courtesy of GoodWeave

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