Will Target Zero help guide sustainable choices?

Discussion
Source: Target
Mar 16, 2022

Mimicking nutritional rating labels aimed at encouraging healthier eating, Target has introduced a new Target Zero icon to make it easier for consumers to identify products designed to reduce waste.

The icon identifies products and packaging designed to be refillable, reusable or compostable as well as those made from recycled content or made from materials that reduce the use of plastic.

Target Zero will be featured on shelves in-store and through a dedicated online section. A total of 426 items are currently available on the Target Zero microsite. Consumers can shop by category (i.e., household essentials, skin care) or by claim (reusable, refillable, reduced plastic, recycled content, waterless or concentrated and compostable elements).

The initiative builds on the 2019 launch of Target Clean, a symbol identifying products without harmful chemicals.

Jill Sando, EVP and chief merchandising officer, said In a statement that the initiative gives brands investing in reducing waste “an opportunity to have those products highlighted by Target” while helping customers shop green. “We recognize their growing calls to find products that fit within their lifestyle, designed with sustainability in mind,” she said.

REI, in 2018, became the first larger retailer to enable shopping online across six sustainability attributes, such as “organic cotton” or “fair trade.” REI has been increasingly highlighting the attributes in its stores.

Amazon launched its Climate Pledge Friendly program in 2020. It includes a dedicated online section that now lets consumers shop across 32 certifications.

Target is the first mass chain to bring sustainability guidance to store shelves.

Nutritional rating systems such as Hannaford’s “Guiding Stars” and Walmart’s “Great For You” labels have long faced questions over accuracy and effectiveness. Front-facing sustainability labels will likely face similar skepticism.

Much like being told what to eat, guidance on how to save the planet may be ignored by many as well.

Forrester’s new report “The New Green Consumer,” found 54 percent of U.S. consumers concerned about the impact of climate change on society, but only 32 percent agreed climate change concerns affect their purchase decisions.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of the potential appeal of Target Zero and similar labels to guide sustainable purchases? Do you expect sustainability tags will receive a similar reception and skepticism as front-facing nutritional rating labels? 

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It’s good to see Target making an effort to increase transparency and communicate more clearly about product characteristics that impact the environment."
"It’s a start and will be appealing to those consumers that strive to be more sustainable when making purchases, even if others greet it with skepticism."
"Gen Z and Millennials appreciate companies that have a stance for an important cause. Sustainability is one of the big ones."

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15 Comments on "Will Target Zero help guide sustainable choices?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

Creating awareness about environmental impact is critical to changing behavior, any initiative that does that can help. I applaud Target and other retailers for their efforts to minimize environmental impact. Sustainability tags won’t convince every shopper to change behavior but it might for some, or at least make them more aware — and that’s helpful.

Dr. Stephen Needel
BrainTrust

You can’t lose with this approach as long as your information is accurate. If the shopper cares, you’ve helped make their trip easier. If they don’t care, then no harm/no foul. If the labels get preachy though, you’ll create problems. Whether you are eco-sensitive or not, nobody likes to be preached to while shopping.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
5 months 15 hours ago

It’s an odd choice to me to place these items in a specific section in the store, rather than working them into existing space. The goal should be to convert all items over to this model, not create a separate section to appease that specific consumer. It seems temporary unless the goal is for the footprint to continue to expand and eventually overtake the full store. There are also larger initiatives that can be seen across retailers that could be more impactful as there is strength in numbers in terms of educating consumers who cross-shop. Things such as the Beyond the Bag initiative and Standard 100 OekoTex certification for harmful chemicals versus Target Clean.

Melissa Minkow
BrainTrust

This is certainly the most convenient, digestible way for consumers to navigate purchase decisions based on sustainability. I think this will actually help shoppers make more eco-friendly decisions, as long as the products are merchandised alongside the items without the zero tag so that consumers don’t have to hunt them out so intentionally. I hope the criteria for these labels is high enough to make a substantial impact on the environment when they’re chosen over competing brands – Target should be more explicit about that impact. This is a great step in the right direction, but those few key details will ensure it actually makes a difference both in consumer behaviors and for the environment.

Kathleen Fischer
BrainTrust

It’s a start and will be appealing to those consumers that strive to be more sustainable when making purchases, even if others greet it with skepticism.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I love the labeling and applaud the commitment/investment. Next step: integrate and feature these products within the rest of the assortment, rather than segregating them as a dedicated brand.

Keith Anderson
BrainTrust

It’s good to see Target making an effort to increase transparency and communicate more clearly about product characteristics that impact the environment.

I would love to see much more transparency about retailers’ and brands’ “back-of-house” decisions about how they power, heat, and cool their production, storage, and office facilities and move goods point to point.

From a climate impact perspective, clean energy and logistics are mission critical. The most forward-thinking brands I’m observing (e.g. Bite) are leading with clear messaging on these topics in addition to decisions they’ve made about product form (concentrated tablets) and packaging (plastic-free and 100 percent compostable and recyclable).

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

The Target Zero guide is a perfect example of a retailer meeting the customer where and how they shop, aligning values with their guests, and taking action against sustainability mission statements.

Creating awareness and educating the customer so they have the ability to make better choices is a prime example of a phenomenal merchandising strategy.

I love this. I’m here for it and can’t wait to spend my money at Target!

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

These new label icons give brands a shortcut to credibility and higher visibility, and give consumers confidence. The icons’ immediate impact can speed up purchase decisions, saving consumers time, and boosting retailers’ and brands’ top line.

Sustainability tags will resonate most with consumers who prioritize the environment even as inflation dominates global headlines.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Gen Z and Millennials appreciate companies that have a stance for an important cause. Sustainability is one of the big ones. As for skepticism, there cannot be a breach of trust. It must be clear what the benefit is to buying a product with a sustainability tag. Customers that feel the cause is important will often overlook pricing issues to buy what they know is good for the world.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Good for Target and the other retailers.

I don’t understand why these products are separated from their products in general. I imagine it might be a statement to highlight what they are doing. It may give the press and us more to talk about, but it really doesn’t help the shopper awareness.

The caution of course is the risk if greenwashing. If they are not on every product, they lose more than they gain. Authentic. Honest. Transparent.

Lucille DeHart
BrainTrust

Sustainable products are only one component to becoming more sustainable. Retailers need to review their own end-to-end solutions from sourcing to shelf. Managing inventory and having demand planning will ultimately drive better results. If we can get the right product to the right place at the right levels to drive quicker sell-throughs, this will reduce waste AND drive higher profits. Less production=less landfill.

C Davis
Guest
5 months 10 hours ago

No surprise that Target is stepping up in this area, but overall, it’s a refresh of their 2014 “Made to Matter” program that did the same thing except it also included a focus on natural and organic, beyond sustainability. MTM seemed to fade away 4-5 years ago, so now post-pandemic, it’s high time to bring the idea back. It could have been sooner, but sustainability took a back seat during COVID when we were all disinfecting everything in sight.

Ken Lonyai
BrainTrust

There are a few small startups aimed at this space including containerless shopping, whereby shoppers bring their own containers for bulk-serve items. Having a mainstream bricks and mortar retailer committing to something similar is a great acknowledgement of the market for sustainable purchases. In the way that nutritional content is an expected (government mandated) feature of food packaging, this may be early days of moving to acceptance of this type of information and approach across most consumer goods.

Oliver Guy
BrainTrust

This is a superb initiative and it will likely target “conscious consumers” — who have increased in number and focus in the past couple of years. However, with the economic clouds gathering, one could be forgiven for wondering if over the coming months (and years) consumers will become more cost-aware. Prices for basic goods like wheat and energy are rising and the pain will soon be felt by consumers. If prices are kept competitive as well then this will continue to resonate with “conscious consumers.” However, anecdotally prior to the GFC in 2008, there were changes in consumer values away from sustainability toward financial value when the impact was felt at the consumer level.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It’s good to see Target making an effort to increase transparency and communicate more clearly about product characteristics that impact the environment."
"It’s a start and will be appealing to those consumers that strive to be more sustainable when making purchases, even if others greet it with skepticism."
"Gen Z and Millennials appreciate companies that have a stance for an important cause. Sustainability is one of the big ones."

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