Target’s 5 New Sustainable Packaging Goals

    This past week Target released its latest sustainable packaging goals with a new list of five. “We know our guests pay attention to packaging and its impact on the environment,” says Jennifer Silberman, Target’s chief sustainability officer. “When we provide them with thoughtfully designed, environmentally friendly packaging, we’re able to help them take another step toward sustainable living.”

    The retailer’s work began back in 2013 with their first packaging goal—to enhance at least 50 of their private brand packages to be more sustainable by 2016. The Target teams exceeded it, serving up 160 enhanced packaging designs that used fewer materials and more recycled content, and were recyclable themselves.

    Now, they are thinking on a broader scale, and proud to announce five new sustainable packaging goals that reflect customer’s expectations, business priorities, challenges the industry is facing today, and areas where they can drive the most change.

    “As a leader in design, we can use our expertise to create more sustainable packaging options for our guests and help deliver products that are both better-for-you and better for the environment,” Jennifer says. “With the power of Target’s team and our scale as one of the country’s largest retailers, we hope to be a catalyst for change across the industry—aiming for the day when all packaging will be recyclable, and leading the way to a packaging-waste-free world.”

    Let’s take a closer look at each goal:

    Eliminating expanded polystyrene
    Polystyrene, or foam packaging, is a challenge in many ways. It’s a pain to recycle, both for customers and distribution centers. It’s also a major cause of ocean plastic contamination—by 2030, predictions say the oceans could have more plastic than fish. And when not produced using safe methods, it can be harmful to manufacturing workers’ health. So as part of their chemical policy, Target will work closely with suppliers and other partners to find better options for packaging, taking into account the performance, cost and availability of materials.

    Sourcing from sustainably managed forests
    It’s an important part of the forest products policy unveiled earlier this month. With the help of vendors and other partners, Target will work to understand the origin of the raw materials that go into paper-based packaging and improve the sustainability of forests where the timber used to produce them was grown. The retailer is kicking off the work with a focus on six private brands: Spritz, Pillowfort, Cat & Jack, up & up, Smith & Hawken and Threshold.

    Adding the How2Recycle label
    GreenBlue’s How2Recycle label is an industry standard that lets consumers know exactly how to recycle a piece of packaging. As a member of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Target’s already got it on 1,700+ product packages—more than any other retailer.

    Supporting The Recycling Partnership
    As the first retailer to join The Recycling Partnership, Target will make it easier by increasing access to the resources they need to recycle. One big example? Studies show just 53% of the U.S. population have recycling as a standard service, and even fewer have cart-based programs. The investment will bring curbside recycling to more underserved communities—increasing recycling and making more recycled raw materials available for packaging.

    Creating more demand for recycled packaging
    The recycling industry is struggling to help consumers understand how and why recycling is so important. So Target will champion the cause by advancing the idea that all packaging will be recyclable one day, making the process easier for all. Target has joined two industry efforts to help: The Material Recovery Facility of the Future, a project working toward a vision that all packaging can be recycled. And Beyond 34, a project focused on demonstrating and sharing the best practices to raise the U.S. recycling rate beyond the current rate of 34%.

    A change this big will take time—but as the work continues, the retailer will report on progress each year in their Corporate Social Responsibility Report.



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    Christopher Durham
    Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.