At Target, you can buy compostable cutlery, cleaning products in glass bottles (easier to recycle than plastic), and shoes that can be sent back to the manufacturer to be recycled into new products—all examples of ways to avoid adding waste to landfills at the end of a product’s life. And in the future, the company hopes its customers don’t end up trashing anything they buy from a Target-owned brand. By 2040, Target aims for 100% of its own products to be designed for a circular future.
That goal is part of a larger sustainability strategy by the retailer called Target Forward, which has three main objectives: to design and elevate sustainable brands, to eliminate waste, and to push for equity and opportunity across the company and in its communities nationwide. Within that plan, Target aims to be zero waste in its U.S. operations and net zero in terms of scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions by 2040, and increase its Black team member representation across the company by 20% by 2023. The Target Forward initiative builds on sustainability steps the company has already taken, such as committing to source 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and joining the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy Global Commitment.
Target’s goal for its own brand products—including Good & Gather, Up & Up, Room Essentials, and more—to be designed for circularity doesn’t necessarily mean “circularity” in the most rigorous sense. Not all those items will have a second life as something else you can buy, in the same way that you can send back your Target-purchased Okabashi shoes to be turned into something new. Instead, that goal is about creating products that are “more durable, easily repaired, or recyclable,” and using materials that are regenerative, recycled, or sourced sustainably. Amanda Nusz, Target’s senior vice president of corporate responsibility and president of the Target Foundation, points to current examples that serve as a foundation of that work, including the Universal Thread apparel line, which uses “more sustainably sourced” cotton and recycled polyester, and the Everspring cleaning line, which includes bio-based hand soaps and compostable cleaning wipes.
That effort will include some customer-education components as well, to inform shoppers about what to do with an item instead of tossing it in the trash. “A great example is packaging,” Nusz says. “What we think about is how to deliver packaging that is compostable, recyclable, or to just remove the packaging, and make sure that the guests understand by the label the packaging they ended up [with].” Shoppers can also bring things to Target stores to be recycled.
When it comes to reducing waste, Nusz says Target already diverts 80% of its waste today, and its efforts like the Beyond the Bag initiative to “reinvent single-use plastic bags” will further reduce that waste. For its Target Forward sustainability strategy, the retail company worked with partners including Business for Social Responsibility and Brands for Good, and suppliers like Unilever and Lego.