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Target Launches 'Big and Tough' Sustainable Sourcing, Worker Wellbeing Goals

Images credit: Nest

Today, Target announced the launch of its 2020 sustainability goals, focused on reaching new levels of transparency and sustainable sourcing. The goals center around three key commitments:

  • Elevating workers’ wellbeing, through initiatives to promote greater access to nutrition and health screening.
  • Achieving net-positive manufacturing.
  • Deriving raw materials, such as cotton, from ethical sources.

“If you want to have a positive impact on the earth and the environment, then you have to change the way that you are manufacturing products,” says Kelly Caruso, President of Target Sourcing Services. “Target can leverage its scale, expertise in design and innovation, and ability to be very transparent, to bring a new level of responsible sourcing to the retail world.”

I sat down with Caruso to further discuss what these ambitious new goals mean for Target and for the surrounding retail industry.

How does this new, elevated strategy build on Target’s previous sourcing strategies, and what are the largest changes or shifts?

KC: The commitments are much more public and transparent. We know that we really need to talk to the industry, to other partners, to share with them what we are focused on, so we can all work together to elevate the global supply chain. We will be publishing our results so that we can share with the world where are we making progress, and where are there still opportunities. It is a way to invite others to work with us in this space. It is truly about going beyond compliance to be progressive and proactive about making a difference in the world.

For Target, what is the main driver of this shift from sourcing compliance to a focus on positive impact?

KC: Externally, our guests care deeply about transparency in supply chains - understanding where their product came from and what went into it - and we have been working with them closely to understand more deeply what exactly they care about.

Globally, we need to ensure that we are coming up with manufacturing techniques that require fewer natural resources. Internally, this progress is important to our team members - they want to work for a company that they feel good about, and when you work in global sourcing, like my team does, you see that impact on a daily basis.

What sets Target’s sustainable sourcing goals apart from the goals of similar companies?

KC: What sets Target apart is our focus on worker wellbeing. With the expansive supply chain that we have, being able to quantify directly the impact that we have, and making sure that it’s not just the factory workers themselves, sets us apart. It’s about women, their children, and their extended families. It’s not just about giving them something today, but giving them education and training that will go beyond and help elevate them.

We are developing partnerships to help move this forward. We are partnering with Nest, a nonprofit focused on creating a better life for workers in the cottage industry. Production at scale often requires large factories. A lot of our production at Target happens in factories, but some products in our style business are produced by artisans in a worker’s home, or as part of a cottage industry. Lack of transparency and accountability in that industry puts workers in a vulnerable position. By building a partnership with Nest, (we) will make a major difference in transparency and data-driven business development. We joined their steering committee in August of 2016 and are developing an industry-wide social compliance standard for artisans and home workers.

We are also partnering with Fair Trade USA - Target will be among the first retailers in the United States to certify decorative home hard goods as Fair Trade. Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model. This partnership will put money back in the hands of workers, empowering them to improve the wellbeing of their families and communities.

Is Target partnering with organizations that help to ensure sustainable and ethical sourcing?

KC: We are partnering with organizations that are focused on understanding the chemical footprint, and how things are grown – for example, (we work with) OekoTex as a certifier, and with Sustainable Apparel Coalition to ensure that we are using less natural resources, water specifically, in many of our manufacturing facilities. And Target has committed to be an early adopter of a program with Evrnu, a fiber technology company that has developed a technology that creates regenerated fiber from post-consumer cotton garment waste.

What are some challenges that Target might face in implementing this new strategy?

KC: There are a lot of challenges. Supply chains themselves are opaque and complex. Ours, like many other retailers with a broad range of categories, adds to that complexity. For us to be successful, it is going to be critical that we dig deep into our supply chain and provide transparency.

We were one of the first retailers of our size to provide transparency through our supply chain with a list of all Tier 1 vendors. We just published Tier 2 vendors – those that are creating raw materials for us to use. That’s an example of how we are really delving into our supply chain to create that transparency.

Sustainable Brands is a community that promotes learning among our members. Do you have anything to share with the SB community, about things you may have learned in putting this process together?

KC: There’s a lot here to be excited about, and we are not going to accomplish these goals by ourselves. Firstly, I am always blown away by the level of expertise, passion, and commitment that exists within this network. I appreciate all of the connections I have made through conferences and other interactions. It shows me that there is so much expertise outside of Target that we can continue to leverage to put progressive responsible sourcing practices in place.

In this role, I am in factories around the globe all the time. I see firsthand what these jobs can do for workers, and in many cases, I see great stories of how the factories we are working with can have a positive impact on workers and their communities. But I also see the opportunity for improvement. My team spends a lot of our time negotiating money, and that is a part of the job - it is about negotiating amazing cost. But that's not what gets us out of bed in the morning - it is knowing that by being a progressive force in responsible sourcing, we are having a positive impact on millions of lives.

We understand that having these commitments is about developing programs and proof points to support and show how you are actually making progress - making sure that commitments are measurable. A lot of that is a work in progress, still. But I am excited about the opportunity to work with peers and partners. We need to rely on NGOs, peers in the industry, third-party certifiers, to help us meet commitments.

These goals are big and tough. But it’s not always about whether you achieve those goals – it’s about whether you are making progress.

 


Alex is Coordinator for Member and Advisory services at SB, providing member companies with sustainability research to support their goals. 

Alex received her MS in Applied Social Psychology from Royal Holloway, University of London, where she focused on… [Read more about Alexandra Smith]


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