Target, Wegmans Make Sustainable Moves

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Target, Wegmans Make Sustainable Moves

By Bridget Goldschmidt, EnsembleIQ - 04/14/2017

Coinciding with the advent of Earth Month in April, Target Corp. and Wegmans Food Markets are touting sustainability initiatives that they hope will resonate with their customers.

Having last fall revealed its responsible sourcing aspirations, which included a commitment to sourcing wood-based products from well-managed products, Minneapolis-based Target has now implemented a forest products policy, which will help the retailer “work toward our long-term aim of sourcing all of the wood, paper, paper-based packaging and wood-based fiber used in Target’s owned-brand products from forests that are well-managed and credibly certified—and whenever possible, from post-consumer recycled materials.”

The company’s first goal under the policy is the full compliance of several of its own brands: Spritz by fiscal year 2018; up&up, Pillowfort and Cat & Jack by fiscal year 2020; and Threshold and Smith & Hawken by fiscal year 2022.

“Target is proud of our commitment to sustainability and healthy communities,” said Kelly Caruso, president, Target Sourcing Services. “We believe this policy is an important step in our journey as a responsible corporate citizen.”

The company intends to collaborate closely with vendors, suppliers and other partners on the project, starting with products containing wood or paper-based materials, such as tissues and paper towels, as well as the brands’ packaging. Progress will be logged in Target’s annual Corporate Responsibility Report.

Wegmans’ Packaging Opportunity

Meanwhile, Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans is similarly bringing sustainability to the forefront as part of its ongoing commitment to reduce waste in landfills and cut emissions, with a particular emphasis on packaging.

“It’s always important to remember that a food container’s No. 1 job is to protect the food inside,” noted Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans’ manager of sustainability. “It takes resources to grow that food, and fuel to bring it from the farm to the store, so we want to preserve nature’s investment in this food with containers that protect it all the way to your table. Our job is to make sure packaging is functional, performs as expected, and uses materials efficiently and responsibly. That leaves plenty of opportunity for exploring ways to make packaging more sustainable.”

To improve its packaging sustainability, Wegmans aims to reduce the amount of virgin materials – new plastic or paper made from nonrenewable fossil fuels – and replace it with mineral fillers, and renewable and recycled materials. The company has also committed to avoiding excess packaging, and removing Bisphenol A (BPA) and other potentially harmful materials where possible and where alternatives exist.

“As often happens with sustainability initiatives, the changes we’re implementing and the progress we’re making aren’t always easy to see,” added Wadsworth. “For some of the sustainable packages we’ve introduced, the change has been very apparent to customers, while for others, they’d never know unless we told them.”

Examples of Wegmans’ sustainable packaging include a new produce bag made from 100 percent plant-based renewable materials rather than fossil fuels; organic beef vacuum-sealed packaging made from 50 percent plant-based renewable material, with plans to increase that content to 70 percent this year; a rotisserie chicken pouch that uses 75 percent less plastic than the previously used plastic domes; the Market Café self-serve bars and the Choose Your Meal and pre-packaged Asian bowl containers in Prepared Foods offering containers that use 40 percent less plastic; front end plastic bags containing 40 percent post-consumer recycled content, all generated by customers returning plastic bags to stores; fresh-cut veggie trays made from 50 percent recycled plastic material; and paper “boats” used for product samples and doughnut and cake boxes containing 100 percent recycled content.

Beyond packaging, plastic utensils in the Market Café are now made of 30 percent plant-based materials and are dispensed one at a time for a 30 percent reduction in waste, while the napkins are made with 100 percent recycled content. Further, in its new stores, Wegmans is cutting the number of paper towels being used in its restrooms by installing hand dryers.

Last year, as a way of shrinking its carbon footprint, the grocer converted its Food You Feel Good About Pasta Sauce from a glass jar to lighter-weight #1 PET plastic, thereby reducing the impact of transportation on the environment.

According to Wadsworth, Wegmans’ 2017 goal is to reduce another half-million pounds of packaging material through recycled content and renewable materials. Since 2015, the company has saved more than 6 million pounds of virgin plastic resin by using mineral fillers, renewable materials, and adding recycled material into its packaging.