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Kohl’s Sustainability Report: Carbon Intensity Down 2.8%

Kohl’s relative emissions were down 2.8 percent last year to 7.74 metric tons of CO2e per 1,000 square feet of building space, from 7.96 the year before, according to the company’s 2012 corporate social responsibility report.

The decline puts the retailer back on track following a slight rise in its emissions per 1,000 square feet, from 7.94 in 2010.

On an absolute basis emissions rose by 0.8 percent in 2012, from 890,995 to 897,817 metric tons. This includes Scope 1 and 2 emissions, as well as business travel. Building space meanwhile rose 3.7 percent, from 111.9 million to 116 million square feet.

Unlike last year, this year Kohl’s did not report its emissions relative to sales.

In 2012 Kohl’s was carbon-neutral for the third straight year, offsetting over 100 percent of its purchased electricity use with over 1.5 billion kWh in renewable energy credits.

The company consistently ranks in the top renewables purchasers in the EPA’s Green Power Partnership – in the latest rankings, it comes in third for amount of renewable energy purchased, and second among 100 percent green power users.

Report overview

The 42-page CSR report places most of its emphasis on the company’s supply chain programs, energy efficiency, carbon reduction initiatives, waste management, and efforts to certify stores to LEED and Energy Star standards. It does not address water consumption or wastewater output. Kohl’s says it used the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) framework as guidance for the report, but the company does not claim any particular GRI application level.


Kohl’s completed solar arrays at 16 stores in 2012, boosting its on-site solar capacity by 24 percent, to 44 MW. Last year’s additions include its largest solar installation to date, a 2.4 MW system on the roof of an Edgewood, Md. e-commerce fulfillment center. This brings its number of solar arrays at stores and corporate facilities to 137. Kohl’s is aiming for 200 by 2015. The company says most of its arrays are funded through 20-year solar power purchase agreements with Sun Edison.

Energy Star and LEED

During 2012 Kohl’s added 75 Energy Star stores for a total of 752, bringing it close to its target of 800 certified locations by 2015. The company now has Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for 301 locations.

Kohl’s says it is the only company to have Gold prototypes under the LEED volume certification program in two rating systems: Retail New Construction (NC) and Existing Buildings: Operations Maintenance (EB). The company has a goal of using the prototypes to achieve LEED NC for all new stores, and continuing to certify at least 50 stores a year using the EB prototype.

Kohl’s is a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge and has set a goal to reduce energy use by 20 percent in more than 112 million square feet of occupied building space by 2020. It has designated a retrofitted 17-year-old, 87,000 square foot Niles, Ohio store as its Better Buildings showcase. There, upgrades have included replacement of nine HVAC units with high-efficiency models, and use of LED fixtures on the sales floor, stockroom, parking lot and some office areas. The company says early performance data in 2012 shows reductions on par with meeting its Better Buildings Challenge goals.

The retailer last year operated electric vehicle charging stations, free for customer use, at 60 locations across 16 states.

Energy efficiency

Kohl’s energy-efficiency projects include lighting retrofits and building re-commissioning.

In 2012, over 71 new and remodeled Kohl’s stores received all LED accent lighting, including track lights, sales floor recessed cans, wall washers, and jewelry cove lights, and 305 stores received LED jewelry showcase lighting. In addition, 621 existing stores received screw-in LEDs to replace halogen and metal halide technology.

Last year the company also tested a wattage reduction program and rolled it out to 216 stores. At these locations, four-foot fluorescent tubes used to light the vast majority of the sales floor, offices and along the perimeter cornice were reduced from 32 watts to 28 watts per lamp. The wattage of all smaller length fluorescents was stepped down by a similar amount. Kohl’s estimates this will save 72,930 kWh per store per year.

The company says re-commissioning inspections at its high energy-use stores offer a quick return on investment. These inspections focus on energy system check-ups and user-driven operational training. In 2012, it re-commissioned 47 stores after they were remodeled or had low Energy Star scores.

In 2012, the company also deployed Ice Bear technology at its Moreno Valley and Redding, California stores. This technology shifts cooling demand by making ice at night and melting it during the day to cool the store. The company will use test results to determine whether to apply the technology more widely.

At its South Lake, Texas store in 2011, Kohl’s also tested Enerfit, a retrofit system that scales the electrical and mechanical capacity of oversized HVAC units to yield energy savings and increase store comfort. Despite record heat of 100+ degrees for more than 90 days, the technology yielded savings, Kohl’s says. 

Supply chain

In 2012, 375 merchandise vendors completed sustainability assessments, which represents about 90 percent of Kohl’s overall merchandise spend. The company expanded its supply chain program to include 50 private brand vendors, as well as its top 325 national brand vendors. It also surveyed 38 non-merchandise business partners in the areas of transportation and consumables.

National brand vendors reached a year-end sustainability score of 71, achieving Kohl’s target of increasing scores from 58 in 2011 to 70 in 2012.

In 2012, Kohl’s reviewed non-merchandise vendors on five key sustainability categories: management/policy, energy/climate, waste management, partnerships and supply chain sustainability. It reviewed merchandise vendors on all these categories, plus packaging. Each category is weighted differently depending on if the company is a merchandise, transportation or consumables vendor.

The company has several programs to help boost vendors’ sustainability performance, including in-person roundtables and an annual series of webinars.

Kohl’s is a founding member of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), which last year released the Higg Index, an indicator-based tool for evaluating material types, products, facilities and processes.. The retailer says it uses the tool to measure the sustainability of factories that produce its private brands.


Last year Kohl’s recycled 83.4 percent of all operating waste, with a goal to recycle 85 percent by 2015. The report did not say how the company’s recycling rate has changed over time. But it showed that recycling by weight decreased for the second straight year in 2012 (see chart).

As of December 2012, more than 640 Kohl’s locations were in its Dry Waste program, which excludes wet items such as food and drink so that the remaining dry items can be placed in a single compactor. The dry waste is then shipped to a facility, sorted, and appropriately recycled or disposed of. Cardboard must constitute at least 85 percent of the dry waste volume for the program to be successful, Kohl’s says, and stores participating in the program recycle 85-90 percent of all their materials.

Kohl’s plans to convert more stores to the program as facility availability increases. But it notes that certain city, county, and state regulations prevent all Kohl’s stores from participating.

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