Scores of marketers in recent years have made sustainability a priority in their branding, messaging and communications.
While many brands have goals that are years away, Target Corp. this month has been delivering on its promises with two current initiatives. The Minneapolis-based chain today announced it is testing a net-zero energy store in Vista, Calif. The store, which boasts a roof of 3,420 solar panels, and carbon dioxide refrigeration, will produce an energy surplus of 10 percent and serves as a trial for reducing emissions companywide.
"We've been working for years at Target to shift toward sourcing more renewable energy and further reducing our carbon footprint, and our Vista store's retrofit is the next step in our sustainability journey and a glimpse of the future we're working toward," John Conlin, senior vice president of properties at Target, said in a statement.
Target's new store follows the introduction earlier this month of new packaging icons designed to identify eco-friendly products and containers. Called Target Zero, the label notes eco-friendly items and features like refillable bottles or compostable bags. The label has been added to hundreds of products in Target's inventory.
The retailer, which has seen sales soar during the pandemic and recently reported a 9.4 percent rise in fourth quarter revenue to $31 billion, has pledged it will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across its company by 2040. In the last five years, Target has reduced its direct operations' emissions by 27 percent, the chain said.
A recent report on the "New Green Consumer" from Forrester found that consumers are increasingly expecting brands to step up their sustainability efforts. Some 49 percent of U.S. online millennials look for energy-efficient labels when purchasing products, for example.
Thomas Husson, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said the recent moves will help give Target a "competitive advantage."
He added that Target Zero "seems to be an ambitious plan to guide consumers in more sustainable choices." However, Husson noted that Target will need to work transparently with its brand partners to deliver on eco-friendly promises and to make sure customers understand the labels.
"The challenge will be to establish trust with consumers to avoid the risk of yet another sustainability label," he said.
Other retailers are also honing their sustainability strategies. The department store chain Neiman Marcus released its first environmental, social and governance report, and promised to use 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. In addition, Room & Board, the furniture company, announced it has hired its first director of sustainability with the appointment of Emily McGarvey, who had been director of corporate social responsibility at Target.