Target’s Thinking Outside the Box with Five New Sustainable Packaging Goals

April 18, 2017 - Article reads in
An orange circular icon with an open package inside

At Target, our commitment to sustainability is how we help protect the planet, support our communities and invest in the future of our business. That means looking not only at the products we sell, but also the packages they come in.

“We know our guests pay attention to packaging and its impact on the environment,” says Jennifer Silberman, Target’s chief sustainability officer. “When we provide them with thoughtfully designed, environmentally friendly packaging, we’re able to help them take another step toward sustainable living.”

Our work began back in 2013 with our first packaging goal—to enhance at least 50 of our owned brand packages to be more sustainable by 2016. Our teams exceeded it, serving up 160 enhanced packaging designs that used fewer materials and more recycled content, and were recyclable themselves.

Now, we’re thinking on a broader scale, and proud to announce five new sustainable packaging goals that reflect our guests’ expectations, our business priorities, challenges the industry is facing today, and areas where we can drive the most change.

Target’s Sustainable Packaging Goals
Source all owned brand paper-based packaging from sustainably managed forests by 2022 
Work to eliminate expanded polystyrene from our owned brand packaging by 2022
Add the How2Recycle label to all owned brand packaging by 2020 (where space allows)
Support The Recycling Partnership’s mission to improve how more than 25% of the U.S. population recycles by 2020
Create more demand for recycled packaging by creating three new end markets for recycled materials by 2020

“As a leader in design, we can use our expertise to create more sustainable packaging options for our guests and help deliver products that are both better-for-you and better for the environment,” Jennifer says. “With the power of Target’s team and our scale as one of the country’s largest retailers, we hope to be a catalyst for change across the industry—aiming for the day when all packaging will be recyclable, and leading the way to a packaging-waste-free world.” 

Let’s take a closer look at each goal:

Eliminating expanded polystyrene
Polystyrene, or foam packaging, is a challenge in many ways. It’s a pain to recycle, both for our guests and our distribution centers. It’s also a major cause of ocean plastic contamination—by 2030, predictions say the oceans could have more plastic than fish! And when not produced using safe methods, it can be harmful to manufacturing workers’ health. So as part of our chemical policy, we’ll work closely with our suppliers and other partners to find better options for our packaging, taking into account the performance, cost and availability of materials.

Sourcing from sustainably managed forests
It’s an important part of the forest products policy we unveiled earlier this month. With the help of our vendors and other partners, we’ll work to understand the origin of the raw materials that go into our paper-based packaging and improve the sustainability of forests where the timber used to produce them was grown. We’re kicking off the work with a focus on six of our owned brands: Spritz, Pillowfort, Cat & Jack, up & up, Smith & Hawken and Threshold.

Adding the How2Recycle label
GreenBlue’s How2Recycle label is an industry standard that lets consumers know exactly how to recycle a particular piece of packaging. As a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Target’s already got it on 1,700+ of our product packages—more than any other retailer. We’ll keep up the momentum by continuing to look for ways to place the label on more of our owned brand packaging whenever space allows.  

Supporting The Recycling Partnership
Guests tell us they love to recycle, so as the first retailer to join The Recycling Partnership, we’ll make it easier by increasing access to the resources they need. One big example? Studies show just 53 percent of the U.S. population have recycling as a standard service, and even fewer have cart-based programs. Our investment will bring curbside recycling to more underserved communities—increasing recycling and making more recycled raw materials available for packaging.

Creating more demand for recycled packaging
The recycling industry is struggling to help consumers understand how and why recycling is so important. So we’ll champion the cause by advancing the idea that all packaging will be recyclable one day, making the process easier for all. We’ve joined two industry efforts to help: The Material Recovery Facility of the Future, a project working toward a vision that all packaging can be recycled. And Beyond 34, a project focused on demonstrating and sharing the best practices to raise the U.S. recycling rate beyond the current rate of 34 percent.

A change this big will take time—but as the work continues, we’ll report on our progress each year in our Corporate Social Responsibility Report. And as our product assortment evolves, we’ll continue to iterate, update and set new goals to keep making a bigger impact.

Interested in learning more about Target’s sustainability efforts? Check out more of the ways we’re designing for more value, positive impact and healthy, vibrant communities. 

Don’t miss out on the latest Target news and behind-the-scenes happenings! Subscribe to our newsletter and get the top stories from A Bullseye View delivered straight to your inbox!