This week Kohl’s issued its first annual corporate social responsibility (CSR) report. While other retailers have struggled the past decade, Wisconsin-based Kohl’s has thrived and is now in every U.S. state except for Hawaii.
With that growth comes a complex supply chain and a huge environmental footprint. Kohl’s has tackled a bevy of issues head-on, and has several sustainability goals in place for 2015. The company is making progress on many of those initiatives, and shows leadership within its industry on clean energy, green building and community relations.
Other retailers may want to take a few pages out of Kohl’s sustainability initiatives, a few of which include:
Green buildings: Kohl’s is greening its stores by embracing both Energy Star and LEED guidelines. The company is 85 percent towards its goal of having 800 stores Energy Star certified by 2015. In addition to the 121 stores that have solar arrays on their roofs, Kohl’s also purchased 1.4 billion renewable energy credits (RECs) to offset the company’s energy usage.
Waste diversion: Last year almost 150,000 tons of waste were recycled throughout Kohl’s operations. Everything from construction debris to depleted gift cards are sent to recycling centers. The company is aggressively reducing its paper consumption as well, from using digital signing in many of its stores to encourage both customers and employees to go paperless with pay stubs and billing statements.
Supply chain sustainability: Kohl’s top 300 vendors were asked to gather metrics on their overall sustainability performance, and the company worked with them to improve their overall scores. Last year energy efficiency was the top priority of most of these vendors, and Kohl’s reported an overall increase on most metrics during 2011.
Stakeholder engagement: Communities where Kohl’s runs its operations and non-profits operations abroad all benefited from a variety of programs from corporate philanthropy to local volunteering. Sustainability is part of Kohl’s training at all levels of the organization. Outside the company’s doors, Milwaukee gains from Kohl’s involvement in urban agriculture, with local arts foundations and anti-hunger organizations. The company has also pledged to work with programs in Cambodia and Vietnam to improve labor standards in factories that manufacture products for Kohl’s stores. Meanwhile the company has pledged to not buy any cotton products from Uzbekistan because of the country’s reputation for using children for forced labor.
For a first sustainability report, Kohl’s GRI-indexed CSR report is a solid first start. Fast fashion and cheap clothing have a long ways to go before they can truly claim “sustainability”, but Kohl’s has shown it is more of a leader in their industry and not a follower.
Photo courtesy Wikipedia.