Kohl’s Plans Carbon Neutral (That’s Zero) Footprint Next Year

kohlsKohl’s Department Stores is going all-in on carbon neutrality.

The Wisconsin company says it’s the first retailer to commit to reaching a net zero greenhouse gas emission as part of a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leader program.

It’s a bold assertion but Kohl’s appears ready to back up it with action.

It will continue to invest in projects to reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions that it emits into the atmosphere. And it wants to accomplish this net zero status by the end of 2010.

That goal accounts for U.S. emissions at all Kohl’s facilities, including stores, distribution centers and corporate offices, as well as emissions resulting from business travel. If it is achieved, the company says it will be equivalent to removing more than 130,842 vehicles from the road for a year or offsetting the annual emissions from electricity used by more than 99,084 homes.

Kohl’s joined EPA Climate Leaders in 2007. The program comprises a group of companies committed to reducing their impact on the environment by analyzing and reporting “aggressive” GHG reduction goals. Kohl’s says it is using 2007 as the baseline-reporting year and a 714,395-metric-ton carbon dioxide equivalent as its starting point.

Once the net zero emissions goal is reached, Kohl’s has further committed to maintaining carbon neutrality through 2012, at which point it will “work with EPA on continued goal setting.”

Initiatives central to Kohl’s achievement of its net zero GHG goal include a continuation of five environmental strategies: maximize energy efficiency, minimize waste, improve new building design, reduce emissions and encourage environmental values.

Highlights of the company’s green initiatives include:

  • Commitments to green power and renewable energy: Kohl’s ranks as the no. 1 retailer on EPA’s list of Green Power Purchasers in its Green Power Partnership. In 2009, Kohl’s purchased 851 million kilowatt-hours in renewable energy credits – enough to meet 71 percent of the company’s purchased electricity use. Kohl’s plans to reach 100 percent green power by the end of 2010.
  • Solar: Kohl’s is currently the world’s largest retail host of solar power with 79 solar locations in six states – California, Wisconsin, Oregon, Connecticut, Maryland and New Jersey. The company aims to expand the program into additional states in 2010 to reach more than 100 solar locations.
  • Central Energy Management Systems: As of 2008, all Kohl’s locations are operated by a system that controls most interior and exterior lighting, as well as heating and cooling systems. Last year, even while adding more than one million square feet of retail space through new and existing store expansion, Kohl’s reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent.
  • ENERGY STAR: The EPA ENERGY STAR national energy performance rating system provides a score on a 1 to 100 scale relative to similar buildings nationwide, with 50 as the average score. Buildings with a score of 75 or higher are eligible to receive EPA’s ENERGY STAR label. To date, more than 350 Kohl’s stores have earned the ENERGY STAR label, or more than one-third of all Kohl’s stores and more than 70 percent of retail buildings to date that have earned the ENERGY STAR label. As a whole, Kohl’s stores average an ENERGY STAR score of 72, well above industry standard.

Impressive yes, especially the plan to reach 100 percent green power by the end of next year. Achievable? Maybe – check this space next year for the results but the real point is the goal, the effort and the lessons for other retailers to follow.

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