One of the biggest drivers of our environmental strategy has been our footprint assessment, which has provided key insights into where we are having an environmental impact and how we can best approach making improvements.
The first phase of our environmental footprint assessment focused on North American facilities where we control operations and can make changes most easily. It includes our nine headquarters (HQ) buildings, four design studios, five distribution center campuses, and more than 2,500 stores in our North American fleet. Completed in 2009, this first phase examined energy, water usage, effluents and waste (including wastewater, solid waste and hazardous waste) in our owned-and-operated facilities.
One important finding from this assessment was that electricity use in our stores was a significant area of opportunity – 71 percent of our energy consumption is the electricity used in stores. As a result, we’ve focused on improving the efficiency of the lighting in our stores, as well as their overall energy management. And we’ve set a goal to reduce absolute GHG emissions in our U.S. operations 20 percent by 2015, based on 2008 levels. Click here to see our baseline data.
The first phase of our footprint assessment also highlighted where we need more detailed information about our waste and disposal practices. To that end, we are working with our partners in store operations to not only identify our waste streams more accurately, but to pilot programs to increase waste recycling.
2008 - 2010 U.S. Energy consumption by operation
We’re beginning to shift more of our focus to the footprint of our supply chain. Though we have less direct influence over these areas – such as the production of raw materials – we believe there may be more opportunity for impact. For example, while water use in our owned-and-operated facilities is largely a function of restrooms and kitchen areas, we believe that water used in the manufacture of our products, especially in water-stressed regions of the world, is a more pressing concern. For this reason, we’re working to develop a comprehensive water strategy. One major initiative of this strategy involves our partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to greatly reduce water usage and improve operational efficiencies at large fabric mills in China.
Increasingly, we recognize that environmental and social responsibility overlap – and that caring for both people and our natural resources in a coordinated way brings new possibilities for creating positive change. We believe our environmental commitments support our human rights work in our supply chain, our employee programs and our Foundation’s community investments.
One example is our role in establishing a new initiative: the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a collaboration of apparel and footwear companies that is establishing guidelines on the sustainability of garment production as well as standards for working conditions inside factories.