Retail Sustainability Leadership Model

About the Model

The Model is a tool for retail sustainability executives to identify the management practices that will drive improved corporate and environmental performance.

The Model is divided into seven sections, including:

  • Strategy & Commitment
  • People & Tools
  • Visibility
  • Retail Operations
  • Supply Chain
  • Products
  • Sustainability / CSR Issues

It is intended to identify possible pathways to strong environmental sustainability programs in retail. The leading practices are currently only performed by a few companies at most; and not every company can/will achieve every leading practice. 

How to Use the Model

The Model is a tool that can be used for individual company and industrywide purposes.

Individual retailers can use the Model to:

  • Identify the maturity of their program and opportunities for improvement
  • Facilitate internal conversations about the sustainability program’s development
  • Access more funding for sustainability programs
  • Train employees with sustainability responsibilities
  • Obtain buy-in from leadership and other departments
  • Evaluate internal and external perception, and then evaluate gaps

Program dimensions that were determined to be critical for embedding sustainability into a company’s corporate culture have been noted. Retailers should focus efforts on driving improvements in these key dimensions.

Retailers can refer to the Sustainability Resource Library for specific tools, case studies, and further opportunities to help them progress the maturity of their programs.

Other related Models include the RILA Retail Energy Management Leadership Model and the ELEVATE Responsible Sourcing Management Model.


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Dimensions Initiating
Companies at this level are just starting their sustainability journey. Most actions and programs are ad hoc, often driven by interested individuals, and there is minimal commitment or strategy at the corporate level.
At this level, companies are starting to develop a more comprehensive sustainability strategy. However most actions remain ad hoc or limited in scope and time, and the corporate commitment remains limited.
Companies at this level have a defined sustainability strategy and corporate-wide goals. The strategy and actions are starting to be implemented across the oganization and have a longer time horizon. The corporation makes a clear commitment to operating in a more sustainable way.
Companies at this level have a strong corporate-wide sustianabiity strategy and have started to tackle more complex issues. Companies are also active in collaboration organizations to move the industry forward as a whole and committed to meeting national and global standards. Corporate leadership speaks publicly on the importance to sustainability.
Companies at this level view sustainabiity as a critical driver for long-term success and look for innovative ways to reduce the enviornmental impacts of the organization, often as a first adopter. They take a leadership role in organizations and sustainable thinking is integrated throughout the organizaiton.
Strategy & Commitment - How the organization designs, manages and promotes their sustainability program, including strategy and goal setting.

1. Strategy and Goals

How the organization develops their sustainability strategy and uses goals to achieve the strategy.

• Ad hoc efforts, no formal sustainability program or program relies on volunteers only​​

• Defined sustainability team with responsibilities on short and long-term sustainability strategy

• Sustainability strategy primarily focused on operational priorities rather than sourcing or merchandising practices

• Defined sustainability team aligns with various key departments on sustainability strategy

• Sustainability strategy encompasses operations, merchandising, and sourcing practices

• Sustainability strategy aligns across departments and with overall corporate strategy

• Incorporates internationally recognized standards (e.g., UNGC, SA8000, etc.) into long-term organizational strategy

• Uses balanced scorecard (people, planet, and profit) system for reviewing strategies and projects​

• Sustainability strategy and corporate strategy are fully aligned

• Sustainability strategy/results regularly reported to executives and the board

• CEO regularly incorporates sustainability strategy in meetings and communications (e.g., employee town halls / investor calls, etc.)

2. Materiality / Risk Identification

Impact and risk identification approach

• Ad hoc efforts to identify sustainability risks and opportunities​​​

• Assesses risks and opportunities through a formal materiality process including stakeholder consultation

• Conducts bi-annual review of risks and opportunities

• Assessment incorporates a timeframe of 3-6 years​

• Individual departments (e.g., sourcing, operations) review materiality assessment

• Uses the same processes to review sustainability risks and opportunities as corporate risks and opportunities

• Assessment incorporates a timeframe of more than 6-10 years

• Integration of sustainability and corporate risks

• Assessment incorporates a timeframe of more than 10 years

3. Goals​

Process, including criteria and scope, for goal setting

​​​• Annual goals based on cost saving only

• Some goals may be benchmarked against peers but no systematic approach.

• Short- and long-term sustainability goals are mostly focused on operations

• Efforts in place to benchmark sustainability goals against peers​

• Identifies modest reduction goals for most of the material risk categories (i.e., energy consumption, water, waste/recycling, sourcing, consumer education)

• Uses routine and comprehensive benchmarking to prioritize focus areas

• Defines comprehensive, science-based, and cross-functional goals addressing all material risk categories

• Goals address most aspects of sustainability and acknowledge environmental justice impacts/intersectionality (see RILA D&I Maturity Model)

• Includes department-specific goals focused on supply chains, products, sourcing, communities, and marketing​

• Uses global and local context of environmental conditions that goes beyond science-based goals (e.g. carbon negative)

• Quantitatively links profit goals with sustainability goals​

4. Governance & Executive Engagement​

Management and responsibility for sustainability activities and goals

• Ownership and accountability for sustainability is confined to one function (e.g., Environmental Health and Safety)

• Dedicated sustainability executive to designs, manages, and continuously improves sustainability program and initiatives

• Establishes sustainability council comprised of senior leaders from key functional roles that meets periodically

• Clearly defines accountability for sustainability goals and initiatives ​

• Board and company leadership develop and/or endorse goals and initiatives to improve sustainability

• Sustainability council comprised of executives, defines priorities, and periodically reports to senior leaders

• Clearly defines sustainability roles for Senior management ​

• Board oversees and endorses sustainability goals and initiatives

• Board appoints dedicated executive champion for sustainability appointed by board

• Executives from all relevant parts of the business are engaged (e.g., strategy, innovation, finance, HR, legal, marketing, sourcing) ​

• Board and key executives held accountable for sustainability performance

• Dedicated Chief Sustainability Officer reports directly to CEO

• CSO & CEO partner to demonstrate business relevance of program to investors and other stakeholders

5. Corporate Values ​

Incorporation and communication of sustainability in the corporate values

• The corporate values and/or mission implicitly addresses sustainability, responsibility, stewardship, ethics, and/or community values ​

• The corporate values and/or mission explicitly mention sustainability, responsibility, stewardship, ethics, and/or community values ​

• The story of the company’s values and/or growth refers to principles of sustainability, and that story is well-known throughout the organization ​

• Story of company’s values acknowledges and articulates intersectionality between values

• The corporate values and/or mission mention sustainability, and that ethos is reinforced in all major internal corporate communications, meetings, and events ​

• Senior executives regularly refer to the corporate values and history in terms of a sustainability and responsibility ethos, and use that to set the tone for the corporate culture ​​

6. Incentives ​

Type and scope of incentives tied to sustainability

• Ad hoc inclusion of sustainable business and leadership practices factor into annual evaluations and compensation in ad hoc ways ​

• Performance evaluation and compensation considers multiple “balanced” goals and performance metrics

• Basic sustainability goals included for select leaders as part of metrics​

• Sustainability metrics included in annual reviews and performance ratings for each business function

• Provides monetary or non-monetary rewards  for biggest contributions to sustainability performance ​

• Reviews mid-level management processes regularly and links it to sustainability performance

• Provides some incentives to influence positive personal behaviors for all employees (e.g., hybrid car or mass transit subsidy) ​

• Links executive compensation to sustainability performance

• Invests in significant incentives to influence positive employee behaviors (e.g., charging stations for electric vehicles at store or office parking lots)

People and tools - management of stakeholders including employees, and corporate tools to implement and manage sustainability efforts.

7. Stakeholder Engagement

Process for identification of stakeholder concerns and engagement

​• Identifies key sustainability stakeholders to the business

• Identifies some stakeholder concerns on a periodic basis but no defined method of proactive engagement

​• Systematic review of stakeholder concerns through materiality analysis

• Establishes and communicates methods of stakeholder engagement

​• Addresses stakeholders concerns through materiality ESG analysis and identifies some KPIs from the process

• Builds relationships with key stakeholders

​• Identifies comprehensive list of ESG KPIs through stakeholder engagement process

• Establishes and communicates methods of stakeholder engagement by type and stakeholder group, including frequency of engagement

• Incorporates feedback from key stakeholders into sustainability strategy

​• Consistently monitors and reports publicly on ESG KPIs identified through stakeholder engagement

8. Human Resources and Corporate Communications for Employee Engagement

Process for communication with employees and their inclusion in sustainability programs

​• Educates employees through environmental-awareness signage in stores and DCs (e.g. break rooms)

​• Works with HR to develop store sustainability teams or advocates to monitor on-site performance and provide feedback to corporate sustainability team

• Works with corporate communications team to solicit sustainability suggestions from corporate employees

• Hosts events for corporate employees to learn about sustainability in their retail roles and in homes (e.g., Earth Month events)

​• Posts store sustainability performance (e.g., energy consumption, waste/recycling generation) for all store and DC associates to compare their facility to others

• With corporate communications team, develops and maintains online platform for employees to review store & company sustainability performance and submit ideas to reduce environmental footprint

​• With HR, provides collaborative forum for high-initiative employees to receive recognition for their sustainability efforts while sharing best practices with colleagues

• With HR, includes sustainability values and expectations in employee orientation and ongoing training programs

• Embeds sustainability into existing HR and corporate communications’ roles

• Holds highly visible senior leadership meetings on sustainability where store employees, sourcing, merchants, logistics, and other staff are recognized

​• Through existing HR and corporate communications channels, regularly educates employees on company sustainability vision and business case to underscore relevance to employee daily work

• Trains in-store employees to educate customers about company’s sustainability/eco-awareness efforts

9. Funding Mechanisms

Allocation of funding and ROI process for sustainability programs

​• Minimal funding dedicated for sustainability programs

• Basic mechanisms to track ROI of sustainability efforts

​• Ad hoc funds for sustainability programs (e.g., energy efficiency, recycling programs, marketing, etc.)

• Conducts some adjustment of ROI on internal projects to account for sustainability metrics

• Dedicated fund for sustainability programs (e.g., energy efficiency initiatives, recycling programs, etc.)

​• Key retail functions include sustainability budgeting (e.g., distribution, sourcing, merchandising, store operations)

• All corporate funding requests routinely include relevant sustainability metrics

• ROI of projects considers total cost of ownership and reputational value

​• Corporate funding requests always include sustainability metrics relevant to the division or business unit, including a shadow or real internal price on carbon

• Sustainability-related funding on an upward trajectory over time

10. Business Innovation Mechanisms

Processes to include sustainability in innovation programs

​• Ad hoc channels in place to invest in sustainable innovation

​• Existing innovation program includes sustainability as a criterion but it is not weighted to receive favorable scores

​• Use mechanisms in place to invest in/prioritize sustainable business model and product/packaging innovations

• Solicits sustainable innovation opportunity ideas from employees, suppliers, and external stakeholders

​• Dedicated team to create and invest in sustainable business model and product/packaging innovations

• Sustainability a consistent driver for new innovation research/projects

​• Innovation fund and dedicated team drive investment in innovative retail business models that promote sustainability

• Chief Innovation Officer incorporates sustainability and continuous improvement into goals

Visibility - covers the measurement and communication of sustainability impacts and goals.

11. Metrics & Measurement

Processes to quantify and track sustainability impacts and actions

​• Limited and ad hoc metrics defined for sustainability



• Limited set of sustainability metrics; focused mainly on operations

• Metrics tracked using basic approaches such as Excel spreadsheets used to track metrics


• Metrics informed by materiality assessment and aligned to global frameworks (e.g., GRI, IIRC, SASB)

• Sustainability metrics tracked for some regions of the global business

• Measurement tools used to track metrics

• Sustainability metrics focused on all material aspects, including innovation

• Sustainability metrics tracked for all the most relevant regions of the global business

• Automated measurement tools with IT systems in place to periodically track the majority of sustainability metrics

​• Comprehensive metrics defined to cover all aspects of sustainability, linking people and planet with profit

• Material metrics chosen from most global frameworks with rationale for metric selection clearly communicated

• Metrics captured consistently across global organization

• Employs effective ‘big data’ strategies to analyze sustainability data and metrics

12. Storytelling through Reporting & Communicating

Approach to public communication of the corporation’s sustainability related values, actions, and results

• Regularly published reports contain cursory mention of sustainable business practices

• Some limited sustainability information is available on website (e.g., a dedicated webpage or grouped with corporate philanthropy)

• Company either publishes a sustainability report on a regular basis, or provides detailed webpages dedicated to sustainability issues that have been explicitly raised on investor calls

• Sustainability report includes both quantitative metrics and qualitative stories

• Sustainability information is readily accessible in multiple formats

• Includes a transparent discussion of progress and ongoing challenges, developed in partnership with the legal and investor relations teams

​• Aligns reporting with third-party frameworks (e.g., GRI, SASB, SDGs) as preferred by key investors

​• Consistently performs well among ESG ratings (e.g., Sustainalytics, MSCI, ISS ESG, etc.)

• Sustainability statements are independently audited

• Active coordination between sustainability, communications, legal, and investor relations team

• Uses integrated reporting

• Focused multi-channel sustainability campaign with features such as an interactive sustainability website

• Communicates sustainability as integrated with brand ethos

13. Storytelling through Point-of-Purchase Consumer Education

Approach for communication to customers of the corporation’s sustainability related values, actions, and results

• Few products are explicitly designed to reduce negative environmental impacts

• Limited education for consumers to learn about sustainability dimensions of products


​• Some specifically designated products offered have sustainability benefits and ad hoc communication on the benefits of those products

• High percentage of products offered have specific sustainability benefits and there is regular communication on the benefits

• Provides some information or tips to consumers on using products/services in a responsible way (e.g., “Please recycle this cup”, “Wash this garment in cold water”)

• Dedicated online storefronts encourage consumers to select products with sustainability benefits

• Provides consumers with tools or incentives for sustainable behavior change even after the purchase (via website, product packaging, etc.)

• Significant in-store signage or sections dedicated to products with advanced sustainability benefits

• Engages consumers about products with sustainability benefits (e.g., catalogs, web filters, icons, online calculators, product stories)

• Actively engages with customer even after the purchase (via website, product packaging, etc.) to mitigate environmental impacts of products

• Most own-brand products have advanced sustainability benefits, and communicate benefits on packaging

14. Storytelling through Marketing Campaigns

Approach to marketing sustainability

​• Ad hoc sustainability-related marketing campaigns

• Regular sustainability-related marketing programs

• Marketing tends to focus on specific themes or times (e.g. Earth Day)

​• Ongoing efforts and funding related to marketing sustainable products and services

• Dedicated sustainability-focused marketer within marketing team

• Marketing effectiveness metrics focus on reputation/brand value

• Significant marketing budgets for sustainability-related marketing

• Marketing effectiveness metrics include financial ROI

15. Collaborative Involvement

How the company engages with peers and other stakeholders on sustainability issues

​• Ad hoc peer engagement on sustainability issues

​• Actively benchmarks sustainability strategy with peers

• Member of one or more industry associations focused on sustainable supply chain issues

• Actively collaborates with peers to make positive impact within industry

• Premier member of one or more industry associations or multi-lateral groups focused on relevant sustainability issues

• Partners with NGOs, governments, academia, or other institutions to identify improvement opportunities

​• Takes a leadership role in developing new tools or capabilities that will enable peers to improve sustainability impact or supply chain sustainability performance

Retail Operations & Energy - covers sustainability efforts and programs for specific operational areas.

16. Stores / Corporate Offices (Green Building & Land Use)

Approach to including sustainability criteria and reducing environmental impacts for construction, renovation and land use

• Construction, renovation, and leasing decisions adhere to local regulations, but little or no green standards

• Minor consideration of environmental impact, energy use, and occupant health are considered in a minor way

• Incorporates some ‘green building’ opportunities into construction, renovation, or leasing projects

• Opportunities are limited to lower-cost options (e.g., efficient toilets, faucets, light bulbs, and ceiling fans; recycled / reclaimed flooring; low-VOC paint)

• Small percent of facilities have ENERGY STAR or LEED certification or equivalent performance

• Routinely incorporates sustainability metrics into construction, renovation, and leasing decisions

• Accounts for sustainability factors (e.g., recycling infrastructure, alternative transportation for customers, etc.) in store site selection

• Higher percent of facilities have ENERGY STAR or LEED certification or equivalent performance

• Majority of stores incentivize customers to practice sustainable behaviors (e.g., premium parking spaces for hybrid or electric vehicles)

• At least half of facilities have ENERGY STAR or LEED certification or equivalent performance

• Implements smart landscaping at some store and warehouse sites to reduce water use and runoff

• Green building and certification (LEED, BREEAM, Living Building Challenge, EPA ENERGY STAR, etc.) or equivalent performance is expected on all projects, except in extreme cases

• Routinely employs smart landscaping, solar panels, wind turbines, or other technologies in the design and construction of new stores, and warehouses

17. Warehouses/ DCs

Approach to including sustainability criteria and reducing environmental impacts in warehouses and distribution centers (DC)

• Storage facilities employ ad hoc eco-efficient technologies or practices

• Emissions are compliant but not fully inventoried

​• Technologies and some behavioral strategies developed to minimize environmental impacts such as waste, energy, and water

• Redesigns warehousing facilities in order to optimize space and reduce environmental impacts

• Implements continuous improvement and reassessment of facility operations to reduce environmental impacts (e.g. products used in facility)

• Regularly adds new technology to reduce environmental impact in moving and storing goods within warehouses

• Incorporates green standards (e.g. energy efficiency certification, Zero Waste certification) for all new warehousing

• Incorporates green standards for all new warehousing or retrofits existing warehousing

• Develops partnerships with customers, upstream processes, and transportation vendors to maximize flow of goods through facilities while minimizing environmental impacts

18. Data Center & Applications

Approach to including sustainability criteria and reducing environmental impacts in data centers and applications

• Sizing and layout of owned or contracted data center infrastructure focused on meeting current needs with limited or no consideration of reducing environmental impacts

• Ad hoc awareness of potential techniques for improving sustainability in application development

• Reduces redundant functions in inventory of applications

• Some efforts to consolidate applications

• Takes advantage of new efficiency methodologies in application development

• Monitors some sustainability data center metrics around power, cooling, and airflow

• Considers and tracks environmental impact along with other business objectives for data centers

• Applications and related platforms shared across business units

• Software development lifecycle regularly uses new efficiency technologies (e.g., virtualization, SOA and other sharing and flexible technologies)

• Follows sustainable data center technology standards throughout organization

• Fully leverages enterprise software across the organization to maximize use/capabilities

• Actively tracks green metrics against business sustainability objectives

• Participates in ENERGY STAR or equivalent certification and recognition program for energy efficient data centers

• All data center build outs and contracts pass through a rigorous sustainability evaluation process before approval

• Seeks to improve ENERGY STAR or equivalent scores for all data centers

Supply Chain Covers sustainability related issues for retail supply chains including transportation and sourcing.

19. Transportation / Logistics

Process for including sustainability criteria in transportation and logistics

• Aware of environmental impact areas for transportation decisions

• Conducts baseline emission measurements

• Sustainable transportation initiatives are in early planning stages

• Employs improved blend of rail, road, and air transportation modes to reduce environmental impacts

• Includes capacity management as a criterion in managing distribution

• Uses or tests some alternative fuels in transportation vehicles

• Participates in EPA SmartWay

• Packaging and transportation systems concurrently optimize flow of goods and minimize space and energy usage

• Develops innovative shipping mechanisms to maximize load capacity

• Uses reusable containerization for nearly all products

• Recognized EPA SmartWay Carrier and Shipper with a high-ranking score

• Significant reduction of environmental impacts by optimizing transportation and warehouse network

• Replaces over 25% of owned or contracted vehicle fleet with low emission vehicles

• Considers emissions when selecting transportation vendors

​• Forms transportation alliances to maximize load capacity and minimize waste

• Recognized excellence in reducing environmental impact from transportation strategies

• Replaces over 50% of owned or contracted vehicle fleet with low emission vehicles

• Low emission vehicle commitment in place (e.g. EV100)

20. Supplier Engagement for Responsible Sourcing (see the ELEVATE Responsible Sourcing Model)

Process for including sustainability criteria in sourcing and purchasing decisions

• Supplier code of conduct addresses various environmental aspects

• Audits suppliers according to a risk profile or in response to problems

​• Incorporates key sustainability considerations into initial supplier onboarding and ongoing sourcing decisions

• Supplier code of conduct incorporates all dimensions of recognized industry standards (e.g., SA8000)

• Delivers some training or guidance to suppliers on sustainability opportunities

• Performs mix of internal and external audits on a regular basis according to supplier risk profile

• Works closely with suppliers to remediate sustainability issues

• Assesses all suppliers according to sustainability criteria

• Supplier code of conduct includes measurable sustainability metrics that auditors can objectively check

• Employs expert auditors to check suppliers according to supplier risk profile

• Tracks supplier sustainability performance quantitatively over time

• Actively collaborates with suppliers to capture shared savings through improvements in sustainability performance

• Develops remediation plans in collaboration with supplier and closely monitors quantitative progress against them

• Sourcing/merchandise teams use sustainability scorecards as integral part of sourcing decisions

• Hosts annual “Sustainability Summit” with key suppliers/vendors

• Encourages vendors to improve and report on sustainability metrics (e.g. energy, waste, water) of their products, possibly leveraging services like CDP Supply Chain

• Works closely with suppliers to monitor subcontracting arrangements

• Encourages sustainable manufacturing practices for all products and suppliers, with a focus on ensuring suppliers’ financial viability

• Relevant departments test and actively partner with research groups or vendors to design next generation equipment for sustainable performance

• Defines and executes on appropriate actions with suppliers failing to meet performance criteria

21. Supply Chain Transparency & Traceability

Approach to providing metrics and information on supply chain sustainability

​• Publishes information on suppliers or country of origin to comply with relevant laws

• Publishes some summary audit statistics (e.g., percentage of factories non-compliant)

• Publicly discloses where products are made (without factory-specific details)

• May disclose some anecdotal factory or farm specific information

• Makes audit results available publicly (e.g., through FLA)

• Supply chain information is available through multiple channels and media

• Publishes supplier code of conduct and summary of monitoring and enforcement mechanisms

• Efforts to trace supply chain from suppliers to subcontractors/vendors back to raw materials suppliers

• Active member of supply chain transparency organizations (e.g., CDP Supply Chain, TSC, SAC)

• Uses multiple channels (e.g., website, reports) to explain challenges in the supply chain

• Works with credible third parties to introduce sustainable best practices (e.g., FSC, MSC)

• Actively markets supply chain stories to consumers

​• Publishes list of factories and locations, with stories, photographs, or other information on all key suppliers

Products - covers sustainability related efforts related to products and packaging

22. Product & Packaging Design and Development

Process for including sustainability criteria in the design and development of packaging

​• Minimal attention to packaging optimization

​• Ad hoc measures to reduce product impacts such as the merchandising products with credible certifications (e.g., FSC, fair trade), and general guidance to suppliers to minimize product and packaging impacts

• Employs credible criteria to evaluate and set targets for sustainability performance, including light weighting, recyclability and materials composition of all major own-brand product categories

• Collaborates with suppliers to identify, develop, and market product/service innovations that further reduce environmental impact

• Employs credible criteria to evaluate sustainability performance of all major product categories beyond own-brand

• Sets meaningful business-relevant revenue targets for product sustainability performance (e.g., 30% of sales will come from products that meet design criteria)

• Designs all products, or works with all suppliers, for a “cradle to cradle” outlook, using tools based on life cycle and hazard assessments

• Publicly reports on product sustainability goals and the net benefits of product sustainability performance

23. Owned Manufacturing / Production

Approach to including sustainability in own-brand manufacturing or production

• Sustainability principles have been incorporated to meet regulatory requirements

​• Develops plans and policies to make manufacturing processes, including agricultural practices, more sustainable

​• Sets targets for key sustainability KPIs (e.g., waste, GHG, water) inclusive of raw material, manufacturing, and other production activities

• Measures against key sustainability KPIs and communicates success and improvement opportunities to facilities

• Benchmarks key environmental and social sustainability KPIs against industry standards and exceeds industry average

• Sets aspirational goals (e.g., 100% renewable power, zero waste, zero accidents)

• Uses renewable energy sources in most manufacturing processes with limited exceptions

• Achieves world class sustainability manufacturing / production levels

• Publicly reports success against aspirational goals

24. Product & Packaging End-of-Life Stewardship

Approach to handling end-of-life issues associated with products and packaging

​• Ad hoc recycling or product take-back initiatives available to customers

• Some limited mechanisms in place to design own-brand products and packaging that consider reuse or recyclability at end of useful life

• Offers select recycling and product take-back bins in some retail locations

• Awareness of circular economy principles and potential applications to own-brand products and packaging.

• Designs some own-brand products to consider rental, repair, reuse or recyclability of product and packaging at end of useful life

• Offers select recycling and product take-back bins in all retail locations

• Explores/tests some circular economy business models/circular products

• Designs some whole lines of own-brand products to consider rental, repair, reuse or recyclability at end of useful life with at least one circular product aspirational goal

• Collaborates with other stakeholders (e.g., trade associations, civil society, competitors, value chain) for system change to upcycle/recycle product components

• Markets product circularity efforts to consumers and see as a competitive differentiator

• Designs all own-brand products and packaging to consider rental, repair, reuse or recyclability of product at end of useful life

• Offers at least one certified or equivalent circular product (e.g. UL 3600, Cradle to Cradle)

• Measures and reports the respective percentage of reclaimed products and packaging materials for each product category

• Implements design and consumer services (e.g. repair) to further enable circular economy business models

Sustainability & CSR Issues - covers approach to corporate social responsibility efforts, including sustainability

25. Corporate Giving, Foundation, and Volunteerism

Approach to corporate giving and inclusion of sustainability

• Ad hoc giving and volunteering, mainly to local charities

• Identified head of corporate giving

• Centralized tracking and reporting of giving and volunteer efforts

• Giving and volunteering efforts include environmental projects

• Coordinated product and/or food donations, and volunteering, perhaps with nationwide nonprofit partner

• Customer-facing messaging about corporate philanthropic efforts

• Strategic and signature giving and volunteer campaigns targeting specific local communities in need

• Coordinated international, national, and local efforts

• Strategic giving to NGOs addressing broader systemic challenges linked to ESG materiality

• Strategic programmatic partnerships with NGOs and others to address specific needs of supply chain workers, in coordination with responsible sourcing program

26. Energy & GHG Emissions (See RILA Retail Energy Management Leadership Model)

Approach to understanding, measuring and reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.

​• Ad hoc measurement and analysis of energy usage

• Manual or fragmented measurement and analysis of current energy usage and future projections

• Replacement of outdated, inefficient equipment

• Some investigation and procurement of alternative energy sources

• Implements coordinated energy efficiency policies across operations and value chain

• Designs and executes systematic energy management program (e.g., data tracking, building retuning, training of relevant employees)

• Uses only energy efficient refrigeration equipment if applicable

• Capital expenditure decisions consider energy cost implications

• Procures alternative energy or offsets for 50% or more of energy needs,

• Sets internal carbon price to measure and reduce GHG emissions

• Participates in efficiency technology research with US government or vendors

• Procures alternative energy or offsets for 90% or more of energy needs,

• Any offsets purchased satisfy additionality criteria

• Joins external alliances to drive energy/climate policy

27. Water & Wastewater

(See RILA Environmental Compliance Leadership Model)

Approach to understanding, measuring and reducing water use and impacts

​• Ad hoc strategy to reduce water consumption in retail operations

• Stormwater management is focused on basic compliance

• Measures current water usage of stores, warehouses, distribution centers and offices across most of the portfolio

• Conducts comprehensive water footprint across retail portfolio including stores, warehouses, distribution centers and offices to understand impacts

• Efforts and technologies in place to minimize company’s direct water usage, such as submetering and low-flow technology

Implements comprehensive approaches to reduce or eliminate stormwater runoff in new construction

• Conducts comprehensive water footprint exercise across value chain to develop reduction strategy

• Efforts and technologies in place to recycle water

• Implements comprehensive approaches to reduce or eliminate stormwater runoff in new construction

• Pursues innovative water reduction techniques such as grey water recycling, xeriscaping, storm water management, etc.​

• Identifies water withdrawal sources and remediates any localized risks

• Works to reduce or eliminate stormwater impacts in existing facilities and new construction.

28. Waste & Recycling

(See RILA Environmental Compliance Leadership Model)

Approach to understanding, measuring and reducing waste generation and increasing waste diversion

• Focus on compliance with waste environmental regulations

• Measures waste footprint of stores, warehouses, distribution centers and offices, across some portion of the portfolio

• Ad-hoc efforts to reduce and recycle waste at some facilities including stores, warehouses, distribution centers or offices

• Comprehensively measures waste footprint across retail portfolio including stores, warehouses, distribution centers and offices.

• Implements waste minimization programs involving reduction, reuse, and recycling at stores, warehouses, distribution centers and offices, primarily focused on common waste streams such as cardboard and plastics.

• Implements leading waste technologies and policies (e.g., balers for hard-to-recycle materials, customer mail in or drop off recycling options)

• Waste reduction targets and continuous improvement method in place for products, supply chain and operations

• Commitment to zero waste goals at some facilities

• Efforts in place to eliminate potential hazardous waste from retail operations, products and supply chain

• Commitment to zero waste across all locations

At least one facility Zero Waste or equivalent certified (e.g. UL, TRUE Zero Waste)

29. Chemicals & Toxics

Approach to understanding and managing or eliminating potentially harmful chemicals in products

​• Complies with environmental regulations

• Maintains a list of regulated chemicals or a restricted substance list (RSL)

• Undertakes beyond-compliance measures to reduce the use of certain chemicals and toxics across the value chain

• Understands sources of toxins throughout value chain and why they are present

• Defines goals around use of chemicals and toxics in products

• Defines relevant metrics to monitor use of certain chemicals and toxins throughout value chain

• Establishes green chemistry program with the goal of reducing toxics across the value chain

• Conducts assessment of chemicals in products and processes to ensure alignment with internal policies and external commitments.

• Communicates green chemistry policies to suppliers

• Makes public announcements of green chemistry policies/commitments

• Establishes alliances with industry peers to further green chemistry innovation

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