Water

We’re finding new ways to manage water sustainably, putting the needs of people, communities and the planet at the heart of how we work today to help build a better tomorrow and deliver on our Target Forward strategy.

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Our approach

Clean water sources are disappearing at an alarming rate, and it’s up to all of us to help design solutions for the future. In 2018, we introduced a freshwater stewardship approach that builds on our existing water management aspirations:

At Target, we believe that clean, drinkable water and sanitation are human rights and should be accessible for all. Healthy ecosystems and sustainable water management are essential in the delivery of these basic rights.  

Water is important to the success of our business operations, from our supply chains to our stores and the communities within which we operate. We’ll focus our freshwater stewardship efforts in areas and on issues where our influence and support can help deliver the greatest impact.

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.

Supply chain

Raw materials

Our water footprint starts with growing the raw materials needed to produce our products, such as food and fiber, so we’re working to better understand our basin-level impacts to prioritize our responses.

We’re proud to have been the first retailer to join Ceres and the World Wildlife Fund’s AgWater Challenge, and make the following commitments to help preserve and protect freshwater resources in the global agricultural supply chain.

  • We are promoting sustainable water management in California as an active member of the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC), a network for diverse stakeholders — including leading environmental organizations, major corporations, agricultural producers and others. Through this network, we are supporting collective action projects that will improve California's water security for people, business, agriculture and nature.
  • We are collaborating with suppliers through the Field to Market Fieldprint R Platform to address soil health issues by developing time-bound, measurable goals to improve soil health across corn and soy acres, and ensuring progress on water quality is made by reducing agricultural runoff in the Mississippi River Basin. Along with other major companies, Target is engaged in a five-year, $8.5 million project to support Nebraska farmers in advancing soil health techniques. We are also investing in a cotton program with our apparel supplier, Arvind, that aims to convert 500 cotton farmers in India to adopt organic and regenerative farming practices over the next five years. 
  • We support future development of small grains and cover crops grown in rotation with corn and soybeans, as part of a collaboration with Practical Farmers of Iowa and Sustainable Food Lab. The project, Small Grains in the Corn Belt, seeks to develop a market solution for climate and water protection in the Corn Belt and engage key supply chain partners on associated feasibility studies.

Manufacturing

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. 

Products

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.

Direct operations

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  

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.  

Monitoring  

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. 

Smart irrigation 

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 rea -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  

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. We are also refining our salt application practices to reduce the amount of chloride entering local water bodies. Target has many sites where salt is used to maintain safety during adverse weather conditions for guests and team members during the winter. To address any impacts the salt may have on local lakes and rivers, we refreshed our training at our stores, supply chain facilities and other sites that experience snow events. The training, which includes application techniques and disposal methods, is based on smart salting techniques developed by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. We will continue to evolve our approach as new practices, techniques and equipment are developed. 

Local partnerships  

Target maintains stormwater assets across the country at our stores, distribution centers and headquarters locations. To date, Target has made several investments in green infrastructure to help reduce impacts on local watersheds, including rain gardens, green roofs and stormwater retention basins. For example, our headquarters facility in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, retains all stormwater onsite via retention basins, which reduces water quality impacts in the local watershed. Target also looks to include low impact development (LID) design aspects for parking lots, such as at one of our stores in Tucson, Arizona, where LID water quality benefits include less water leaving the site and the vegetation helping to uptake pollutants from the stormwater. Additionally, the vegetation can be grown with stormwater captured onsite or close to the site, which avoids using potable water, thereby conserving water for other uses. Target will continue to identify opportunities to partner with local watershed management groups to help improve water quality.  

Smart salting  

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. 

Community projects 

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) 

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 CA: 1) the South Coast region (from Ventura County to the border), 2) the San Joaquin Valley region, and 3) the greater SF 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 CA 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. 

Our goals

We are in the process of renewing our goals to align with the newest science and policy surrounding water security and management across our operations and value chain. We recognize the importance of water in our new Target Forward Strategy and are planning further incorporation into Target Forward. 

Other Environmental Goals and Targets related to water:  

  • By 2022: Source 100% sustainable cotton for our owned brand and exclusive national brand products. Learn more

  • By 2025, all owned brand apparel textile facilities comply with Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals (ZDHC) Progressive level wastewater standard. Learn more