March 2017

The Spotlight is on:

Target Corporation: Company Profile

  • Upscale discount retailer that provides high-quality, on-trend merchandise at attractive prices.
  • Maintains 1,806 clean, spacious and guest-friendly stores throughout the United States and Target.com.

A Q&A with Target:

Q: How long has Target been active in the food waste reduction effort? 

A: Managing food waste has been an important part of our operations since we started selling food. All our programs that touch on minimizing waste – source reduction, donations, composting – require continued evolution to keep up with technology, regulations and partnership opportunities.

We have several teams that work together to continuously improve our efforts on reducing food waste.

Q: What strides have you made since you embarked on this journey? 

A: A critical element of Target’s efforts to combat food waste is prioritizing strategies based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. Source Reduction, the top level of the hierarchy, aligns with our broader business strategies to ensure freshness throughout our supply chain, thereby reducing the volume of surplus food waste in our own operations and in our guests’ kitchens. Our efforts include inventory management and culling processes, distribution optimization to reduce the amount of time and handling of perishable products, and using donation and composting data to better inform the buying processes.

In 2015 we set a goal to divert 70% of retail waste by 2020. We are currently exceeding this goal, diverting 70.8% of our retail waste, and continuing to expand our programs.

Q: Are there any new initiatives underway? 

A: As part of the California Department of Food & Agriculture’s State Organic Program, Target has begun rolling out an organics program in our California stores and distribution centers. This California program is helping us develop a model that can be used in other Target properties across the country, if compliance regulations are put into place or the availability of infrastructure advances to drive efficient solutions. Aligned to this effort, our Compliance team and headquarters and field leaders also are stressing the importance of food donations, to ensure composting is utilized only when food donation is not an option.

Q: What is Target most proud of when it comes to your sustainability and food waste reduction program(s)? 

A: In 2016, we donated 63 million pounds of foods, which equals more than 53 million meals through programs like our store food donations to Feeding America affiliates across the country.

Q: How do you engage employees? 

A: Each year, the average Target headquarters team member generates about 400 pounds of waste—and almost all of it can be composted or recycled. Looking to greatly reduce waste, in 2014 we asked teams within Target to work together on ideas for expanding the recycling and composting programs at our headquarters locations. They responded with a solution that enabled more than 15,000 team members at four office buildings to sort waste without leaving their desks. The key: updated waste baskets modified with three separate, labeled compartments. There’s a blue bin for recyclables, a small gray bin for trash and a large middle bin for compostable materials. The program, dubbed “Know the space to throw your waste,” drove a 295 percent increase in tons of compostable waste from headquarters, growing from 41 tons in 2013 to 166 tons in 2014. Trash weights were reduced 22 percent for headquarters locations, represented by 83 fewer tons sent to a landfill.

Target customers played a role in this program, too—the composted material is processed by EcoScraps and some of it is sold as soil at Target stores. The program went from the early idea stage to fully implement in less than four months. It’s just one example of how we’re breaking through challenges and finding new opportunities for our team members to engage on sustainability efforts that impact our company.

In addition, in California we have engaged field leaders, store leaders, team members and our Compliance team to build a culture around donating and recycling food waste and continue to train and communicate to create best practices.

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned since your engagement in this space?

A: Infrastructure for organics recycling is still emerging. Innovation and municipal infrastructure investments are critical to removing barriers faced by retailers.