How Target aims to hit the mark on sustainability

This week on Nature of Business I spoke with Kate Heiny, senior group leader of sustainability for Target, a position that she has held for more than five years. We had an exciting conversation about Target’s sustainability strategy and its particular focus on the health and sustainability of the communities it serves, strategic partnerships the company has forged, specific sustainability initiatives and more.

It became abundantly clear early on in the conversation that Target takes its sustainability work seriously. The company believes that to have a lasting positive impact on society, sustainability must be integrated into the fabric of the organization while encouraging growth at the same time. This is great news, particularly given the company has 1,700 stores. Toward this end, Target focuses on four commitments:

Heiny draws on several examples on how it empowers both customers (“guests”) and employees (“team members”) to live more sustainably. Examples include its 5 cent reusable bag discount. (Target is giving away 1.5 million such bags on Earth Day this year, inside which will be a book of coupons); the recycling kiosks placed near the entrance of all stores, where guests can recycle bottle, cans, and small electronic devices; and its elimination of the potentially lethal sandblasting process for finishing apparel. Another noteworthy statistic is that 762 of Target’s stores are now labeled Energy Star. They are the top retailer to do so.

Target’s commitment to communities goes well beyond sustainability. It has committed $1 billion to education by the end of 2015, in addition to the roughly $4 million a week it gives to communities to make them safer, happier and healthier places to live. On June 30, Target is introducing a new apparel line, the sales of which will go directly to Feeding America —meaningful stuff at a time when hunger is on the rise in the U.S.

It’s clear that Target has figured out how and where to makes it mark.