Why Kohl’s is One of the Most Sustainable Department Store Chains in the U.S.

Kohl'sKohl’s Department Stores recently rolled out its new CSR report, and it shows that the fourth-largest department store chain the U.S. is well on its way to becoming one of the most sustainable retail chains. A few achievements mentioned in the report serve as examples, namely that a number of Kohl’s locations have achieved Energy Star and LEED certifications. A total of 752 of its locations achieved Energy Star certification, 75 in 2012 alone. That puts Kohl’s well on its way to meet its goal of 800 stores with Energy Star certification by 2015. Over 300 stores have also achieved LEED certification.

Kohl’s is one of the biggest corporate users of solar power in the U.S., ranking third behind Walmart and Costco. A total of 137 of its stores have solar arrays, with 16 new locations added in 2012, a 24 percent increase from 2011. The goal is to have 200 solar arrays active by 2015. Its largest solar array is at its Edgewood, Maryland e-commerce fulfillment center, which features over 6,000 solar panels on the rooftop, and produces 2.4 megawatts (MW) of power. It provides over 40 percent of the facility’s energy needs.

Other highlights from the report include the following:


Kohl’s recycled over 83 percent of all its operating waste. The goal is 85 percent by 2015. It created the Dry Waste program in 2010 to exclude “wet items” like food waste or beverage containers that aren’t empty. Through the program, stores put bagged trash, paper products, graphics and cardboard into a compactor and the waste is then taken to a facility where it is sorted and recycled or disposed. Cardboard is the company’s biggest source of dry waste, and for the program to be successful, 85 percent of the waste must be cardboard. There were over 640 Kohl’s stores participating in the Dry Waste program as of December 2012. Kohl’s plans to add more stores to the program as facility availability increases.


Over 71 new and remodeled stores received all LED accent lighting in 2012, and 305 stores received LED jewelry showcase lighting. LED lights save money and have a longer life lasting up to 10 years, compared to the previous lighting which lasted two years. A total of 621 existing stores received a screw-in LED retrofit re-lamp program, which replaced higher wattage and outdated halogen and metal halidide technology while using the existing light fixtures. The screw-in LED replacement light has a five-year life, and reduces a store’s daily energy demand by 720 watts. In addition, Kohl’s reduced the wattage of four-foot fluorescent tubes used to light the the majority of the sales floors, offices and the perimeter from 38 watts to 28 watts per lamp. It rolled out the reduced wattage program to 216 stores last year. The estimated energy savings for each location with the program is 72,930 kilowatt hour (kWh) a year.

Energy efficiency innovation programs

Last year, Kohl’s introduced two energy efficiency innovation programs: Ice Bear and Enerfit. The Ice Bear technology shifts the cooling demand from the hottest part of the day to the evening by making ice at night and melting it during the day to cool the store. It switches the store’s electricity demand from high cost daytime hours to lower cost evening hours and reduces the load on the grid. Kohl’s deployed the Ice Bear technology at two of its California stores, and will determine whether or not to deploy the technology at other locations based on the success of pilot program at those two stores.

The Enerfit is a retrofit system for single zone HVAC units that use a customized set of hardware, controls and logic to scale the electrical and mechanical capacity of oversized HVAC units to produce significant savings. Kohl’s deployed an Enerfit system at its South Lake, Texas store in the fall of 2011, and demonstrated savings despite record heat of 100 plus degrees for over 90 days, which are not ideal conditions to test the system.

Photo: Flickr user, ginat3

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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