Target has taken a journey when it comes to corporate responsibility. How has it evolved?
We learned a great deal in 2017 from the journey of creating our new corporate responsibility strategy. This strategy marks a pivot in the role that corporate responsibility plays in Target’s business. It is evolving from primarily philanthropy to linking business and societal value; from a singular issue to driving multi-faceted positive impact; from being stand-alone to being woven into all we do; and from pockets of action to enterprise-wide engagement. It has allowed us to ensure that corporate responsibility is truly delivering on Target’s purpose and is poised to ensure we have a thriving business now and into the future.
What was the case for change?
Our operating environment has radically shifted, and we needed to evolve and adapt. Guest expectations of all retailers, including Target, are rising, and their purchasing decisions are increasingly being motivated by concerns like whether a retailer has committed to sustainable business practices or taken a stand on an issue that matters to them. We had a huge opportunity to better serve this guest need.
We had to build foundational elements into our strategy in terms of issues that could pose risk for a business of our size. There also was an opportunity for us to better use corporate responsibility to drive competitive advantage by doing things in a way that leverages Target’s unique assets and strengths as a business. And most of all, we could also see untapped business opportunity; we look at businesses driving significant revenue via their corporate responsibility strategies and aim to maximize our ability to capture this opportunity for Target.
What corporate responsibility achievements are you most proud of in 2017?
One of the achievements I am most proud of is our continued dedication to delivering on guests’ rapidly changing needs and preferences. In response to our guests’ desire for clean, transparent products, we recently began rolling out a common framework for what is considered nutritious, clean, transparent and responsibly sourced. Starting in January of this year, we began in-store and online implementation of our Wellness Product Standards. Through iconography depicting key attributes, such as organic or cruelty free, we hope to make it easier for guests to access and understand our carefully curated selection of products that are better for you, your family or the planet.
And beyond the shelf, we are working to ensure our products are made using natural resources responsibly. We have made progress already by establishing cotton, forest products and packaging policies and commitments, and are working on issuing a deforestation statement as well. These are just a few ways we are delivering on our promise to improve our products to align with guest preferences and values and help make a positive impact.
Many corporate responsibility initiatives that improve the bottom line in the long term do not pay off initially. How do you bring along stakeholders in that early stage when there won’t be an immediate payoff?
Our leadership is intentional about creating the right incentives and motivations to get stakeholders onboard with initiatives that do not immediately contribute to our bottom line. For instance, we knew our goal to add solar rooftop panels to 500 of our stores and distribution centers by 2020 would require having a long-term vision. In 2017, we added more than 65 megawatts of solar across 86 new solar projects – more than any other U.S. retailer, and are well on our way to reaching our goal. This would not have been possible without the support, insights and engagement of our stakeholders who understand that to make a significant impact, we must think beyond the short term.
What excites you the most about this new strategic direction for corporate responsibility at Target?
The four pillars of the strategy each contain a big idea. When it comes to our team, we are hard at work thinking about how to make our jobs among the most rewarding in retail, and I am so proud of our initial commitment to get team members to $15 an hour by 2020 – and that is just the beginning. For our guests, I am excited to bring the core Target competency in eliminating tradeoffs to bear on the choices guests too often have to make between affordability, efficacy and sustainability. I am also thrilled that the growth of our joyful new private-label brands will be powered by helping our guests meet their need for value and values. When it comes to our community pillar, we are essentially reimagining the role a retailer plays in a community so our presence helps power the prosperity and well-being of whole communities. As a company, we are reasserting the case for bricks and mortar, while not slowing down as we innovate to become a best in class digital retailer. And it is a privilege to bring the power of Target’s design prowess to the exciting challenge of how we make the circular economy a mainstream part of our products and of our guests’ shopping and consumption behaviors. It feels like a blueprint for retail 2.0, and a way for us to truly stand behind our purpose to help all families discover the joy of everyday life.
Vice President, Corporate Responsibility