We created our freshwater stewardship approach and initial goals to help us address three important issues in communities where we operate:
- Improving water quality
- Optimizing water efficiency
- Increasing access to clean water
They’re designed to help us deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2020, we used the World Resources Institute (WRI) Aqueduct tool to understand our water risk for both domestic and international facilities. In domestic locations, we use this updated data to prioritize efforts in highest-risk watersheds. In our international supply chain, this water risk information is incorporated into a hotspot mapping exercise by facilities’ Higg data that helps us prioritize which locations to focus on for programs like Apparel impact institute (Aii) and International Finance Corporation (IFC) based on their environment footprint.
As w e expand our understanding of our agricultural water footprint and the extent of our high-water intensive commodities, we are putting in investments today to help accelerate the much-needed changes within the water-agriculture nexus. Raw materials start at the soil level so that is where we are starting our journey. We have ambition to leverage soil health practices to improve at least one million acres of land by 2025.
In order to achieve this goal, we are partnering with several suppliers on initiatives that promote regenerative agriculture techniques. We seek to improve soil health across corn and soy acres, and ensure progress on water quality is made by reducing agricultural runoff in the Mississippi River Basin. One example of this is our collaboration with The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. Along with Cargill and McDonalds, Target is engaged in a five-year, $8.5 million project to support Nebraska farmers in advancing soil health techniques.
Working in our areas of greatest impact, we’ll enable our owned brand manufacturers to do more with less water where local conditions demand it and aim for net-positive water quality outcomes in priority watersheds for people and nature.
With a key focus on our water efficiency and water quality goals, we partner with both the Aii and IFC through their Clean by Design (CbD) and Cambodia Improvement Program & Vietnam Improvement Program (VIP) programs, respectively, to help our manufacturer partners in China, Cambodia, India and Vietnam reach greater water efficiency. As of year-end 2021, we have had 135 facilities participate within the listed programs. Of the facilities that have completed participation in one of the various process improvement programs, we have seen a positive trend in water savings. We will continue to work closely with AII and IFC in these watersheds to move us closer to net water positivity in our value chain. For more information on the following programs (CbD) and their sustainability impact, please check out our Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility page.
Target is an associate member of The Microfibre Consortium, which facilitates the development of practical solutions for the textile industry to minimize fiber fragmentation and release to the environment from textile manufacturing and product life cycle. We have also supported OceanWise for microplastics research by funding a cohort through the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA). Target has used waterless dyeing in some owned brand fabrics since 2013, and we continue to design garment-washed apparel for water savings.
Across our stores, distribution centers and headquarters locations, we’re taking action to reduce water scarcity, improve water quality outcomes and manage stormwater flows.
We’ll continuously seek to improve Target’s position on water quantity and water quality within our U.S. building operations, prioritizing areas and communities with the biggest impact.
Water insecurity is a rising challenge exacerbated by changes in precipitation and growing populations. Target will continue to expand upon our programs and processes to reduce impact on watersheds and help communities affected by water stress.
Target closely monitors water usage to quickly identify properties with high water usage, indicating possible leaks or plumbing repairs needed. Equipped with this information, headquarters communicates with team members at these locations to identify the problem and engage partners to fix the issue. This communication process ensures water usage decreases quickly, allowing Target to optimize water efficiency.
Most Target locations have landscaping and plants that need to be maintained by irrigation. One of the ways Target optimizes water efficiency is through our smart controller irrigation program. Using HydroPoint smart controllers at Target locations throughout the country ensures we are watering plants appropriately, finding underground leaks in real time and pausing irrigation when it's raining. In the coming years, we will be expanding this program, prioritizing areas with the biggest need.
Water quality is a growing risk in the U.S. As water quality is ever-changing in regions across the country, Target continues to operate and maintain best practices in managing stormwater and the quality of water leaving our sites. We do this by building local partnerships with watershed managers to improve green infrastructure and refining our salt application practices at stores in snow states to reduce the amount of chloride entering local water bodies. With our large operational footprint across the U.S., we can work to improve water quality in multiple areas of the country.
Target is recognized for maintaining best practices in managing stormwater and the quality of water leaving our sites. Many of our facilities have stormwater management systems in place and we partner with local organizations to improve infrastructure and benefit local watersheds. For example, our headquarters in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, keeps all stormwater on-site via retention basins, which reduce water quality impacts in the local watershed. We also include low-impact development (LID) design aspects for parking lots, such as at one of our stores in Tucson, Arizona, where less water leaves the site and vegetation can be grown using captured stormwater rather than potable water.
Target has many sites that experience winter weather where salt, a.k.a. ice melt, is used to maintain safe sites for guests and team members. While some salt is necessary to ensure safety, it can also cause environmental impacts to local lakes and rivers, potentially causing problems in those ecosystems. In fact, one teaspoon of salt can pollute five gallons of water, and salt levels have been rising in many water bodies across the country. To help combat this problem, and also align with our chemical policy work in direct operations, Target launched a refreshed training program for ice melt application during winter at our stores, distribution centers and headquarters facilities that experience snow events. The training materials are based on smart salting techniques developed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency that are safer for lakes and streams. The training includes salt effectiveness guides, proper application techniques and correct disposal methods. Target saw an opportunity to focus on reducing our salt application to help improve water quality, and with our broad reach across the country we hope to benefit multiple watersheds. We will look to continue evolving our smart salting approach as new practices, techniques and equipment are developed within the snow removal industry.
Beyond the fence line
We work with others around the world to encourage progress in the areas above and beyond our own business and operations, through cross-sector partnerships, team member engagement, philanthropic investments and more.
In communities in some of the most stressed watersheds in the U.S., Target is supporting projects that support community water resiliency and address the interconnections between water and climate change. We are also investing in cross-sector collaboratives working on these issues in communities.
California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC)
One example of our work in action is our partnership with California Water Action Collaborative. This program is an ongoing and developing network of NGOs and corporations committed to addressing water resilience and security for all in California. CWAC utilizes a collective impact approach grounded in understanding watershed/basin needs, practical solutions and projects, and systems change. The collaborative focuses learning and solutions/project development in three hydrologic regions in California: 1) the South Coast region (from Ventura County to the border), 2) the San Joaquin Valley region, and 3) the greater San Francisco Bay Area-Delta region.
Members of CWAC include Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Danone, Pepsi, Environmental Working Group, Bonneville Environmental Foundation and Pacific Institute, among many others.
All in all, CWAC’s mission is to leverage these collective impact efforts; improve water resilience in California for all; and provide effective examples, methods and resources for different sectors, to collaborate effectively to respond to the climate-fueled water challenges and risks the region is facing.