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.
Our dependence on freshwater ecosystems is vast and spans across our value chain and the communities in which we operate and live. Because water has an undeniable link to climate, water crises have arisen from unexpected weather events where drought and floods have impacted workers, communities and operations.
In 2018, we introduced a freshwater principles that build 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.
Our primary guiding principles continue our current work, inform our future work across our value chain and 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.
We continue to refine processes to identify, prepare for, respond to and recover from water emergencies, such as floods, treatment inundation, boil water emergencies and extreme weather. Annually, we use 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 FEM data that helps us prioritize which locations to focus on for programming through the Apparel impact institute (Aii) based on their environment footprint.
Target’s supply chain constitutes 99.9% of Target’s overall water use, primarily for Food and Beverage, Essentials and Home Goods. Our supply chain facilities and production depend on sufficient amounts of good quality freshwater available for use.
Water is essential throughout our value chain, including in the growth of leading materials such as cotton and timber, and to produce numerous products. For instance, we invest in Better Cotton, which trains farmers to use water efficiently, care for soil health and natural habitats, reduce use of the most harmful chemicals and respect workers’ rights and well-being. In 2022, an estimated 91 billion liters of water were saved thanks to our participation in Better Cotton.
As we 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.
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, Pakistan, Taiwan and Vietnam reach greater water efficiency. Since 2013, we have used waterless dyeing in a growing number of owned brand fabrics for garment-washed apparel. By 2025, we have set a goal to design a 100% of garment-washed Owned Brand apparel using water-saving design principles. We will continue to work closely with Aii in these watersheds to move us closer to net water positivity in our value chain.
Target Zero has a “Waterless or Concentrated” category comprised of more than 60 products. By actively supporting the availability of products that are less water-intensive, we are giving guests more options and helping them to make informed product decisions.
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 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 proactively maintaining our stormwater best management practices, building local partnerships with watershed managers to install 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 define “beyond the fence line” as water-related investments that are outside of our immediate operations, both domestically and abroad, but that are within the realm of our impact and influence. 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.
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.
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 Target Forward, our enterprise-wide sustainability strategy, and plan to further incorporate water into our goals.
Target is committed to sourcing cotton more sustainably for our owned brand and exclusive national brand products by participating in programs designed to improve cotton growing practices and working conditions.
Explore our cotton commitment
By 2025, Target plans to comply with the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals' (ZDHC) progressive level wastewater standard1 in regards to all owned brand apparel textile factories.
Learn more about our approach to chemicals
1 The ZDHC wastewater standards are in two parts: conventional requirements and ZDHC MRSL. The conventional parameters relate to metrics that tie to basic water quality, such as acidity and the amount of oxygen available in the water (key to support aquatic life). The conventional parameters include three levels: foundational, progressive and aspirational. At least 22% of our facilities meet the foundational requirements and at least 7% meet the progressive standard.