Target’s 2023 Sustainability and Governance Report reveals that the company saw an 8% increase in virgin plastic use for its food, beverage, essentials and beauty packaging in 2022 despite the retailer’s goal to its use for brand packaging by 20% by 2025.

The increase translates to 41,900Mt of virgin plastic used against the revised 2020 baseline of 38,000Mt. The report reasons that the increase “is due in part to global supply constraints, regulations, food contact and cost” and assures customers that: “We are applying lessons learned as we take necessary actions to reduce this number.”

Target needs to urgently turn the tide of virgin plastic production if it is to reach its reduction target by 2025 and remain credible on this front. GlobalData’s recent Thematic Intelligence: ESG Sentiment Polls Q3 2023 found that 52.7% of 364 respondents on its network of business-to-business websites believe that, for most companies, ESG is just a marketing exercise. Target will not want to be counted among that number.

The retailer has made some steps, including the 2022 launch of its Target Zero project – a curated collection of packaging designs intended to be refillable, reusable or compostable. The range is made from recycled content and includes products from brands such as PLUS, Burt’s Bees, Saltair, Pacifca, Grove Co. and Target’s own Everspring brand.

The report also revealed that Target had made progress in other areas. It has increased post-consumer recycled content (PCR) in its owned brand packaging to 15%, up from 6% in 2021, pushing the company closer towards its 20% by 2025 goal.

Elsewhere, Target has committed to a series of other goals, including developing a circular packaging design for 100% of its owned brand products by 2040. It launched its Circular Design Guide website for internal training in 2020 and updated it in 2022 to reflect the four circular design principals of material choice, durability, repairability and recyclability.

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A GlobalData analysis of Target’s filings since 2016 has revealed a steady increase in company discussion of ESG, environmental concerns and climate-change-related issues within its filings. Notably, 2022 saw a dip in line with Target’s increased use of virgin plastic.

Brian Cornell, Chair and CEO of Target, wrote in the report: “Sustainable solutions are those that fortify our future. In addition to mitigating risks to our business and long-term performance, climate-related efforts provide near-term value and cost savings, while ensuring we meet our guests’ growing calls for sustainable and affordable brands.”

Our signals coverage is powered by GlobalData’s Thematic Engine, which tags millions of data items across six alternative datasets — patents, jobs, deals, company filings, social media mentions and news — to themes, sectors and companies. These signals enhance our predictive capabilities, helping us to identify the most disruptive threats across each of the sectors we cover and the companies best placed to succeed.