Last year, Williams-Sonoma announced its intention to implement sustainability and social responsibility goals across its brands, including achieving carbon neutrality and increasing investments in fair trade goods.
Now the company has released an update on those goals with its 2021 impact report. The report details progress on initiatives on several fronts, including sustainability, circularity, ethical production and worker wellbeing across its collection of brands: Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, West Elm, Mark and Graham, and Rejuvenation.
Preserving the planet
Sustainability figures prominently in Williams-Sonoma’s goals outlined in the report. While the company has implemented eco-friendly practices such as using FSC-certified catalog paper and wood over the years, it outlined more substantial goals last year. Those goals include 100 percent carbon neutrality in Scope 1 and 2 Emissions by 2025, 50 percent absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 Emissions by 2030 and 14 percent absolute reduction in Scope 3 Emissions by 2030.
Initial steps to achieve those goals include designing new stores with energy-efficient systems and LED technology, and retrofitting existing stores with more efficient LED lighting. The company also turned on green power last year at its Georgia distribution facility with plans to add solar power to three additional distribution locations.
“We’re also one of the first home furnishings brands to set a Science-Based Target for reducing emissions across our value chain,” said Laura Alber, president and CEO, Williams-Sonoma. “We’ve decreased our carbon intensity since 2011, and now we’re applying learnings from our own operations to our entire supply chain. Since 2019, when we began tracking our value chain emissions, our carbon intensity has decreased by 24 percent while revenue has grown by 40 percent. Sustainability is core to our business strategy.”
That emission reduction also comes from Williams-Sonoma’s supply chain. The company added Higg Facility Environmental Module scores to its vendor scorecard in 2022, and worked with a subset of vendors to roll out an environmental engagement initiative focused on greenhouse gas emissions. In 2023, it plans to work with phase one vendors on third-party verification of their energy and emissions data. They will set their own goals to reduce manufacturing emissions by 20-50 percent over the next 5–10 years.
Additionally, Pottery Barn made a commitment in January 2021 to plant 3 million trees by 2023 in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation. Since then, the company has planted 1.5 million trees and doubled its goal to plant 6 million trees by 2023.
On the materials front, Williams-Sonoma exceeded its 50 percent responsibly sourced wood goal one year early, with more than 60 percent in 2020. As of 2021, 94 percent of the company’s cotton is responsibly sourced, with a remaining 3 percent in transition, 2 percent not going forward and 1 percent being confirmed. In the coming years, the company remains committed to maintaining 100 percent responsibly sourced cotton across its brands.
Ethical production and worker equity have been a major focus for Williams-Sonoma over the past few years, as well. The company conducted a supply chain risk assessment to get a better idea of country- and product-level human rights risks, which led to changing their audit protocol. For instance, select low-risk suppliers were eligible to submit industry-leading equivalency reports rather than conducting third-party audits.
Addressing worker needs also has been a focus, with implementation of health and safety training courses at 27 factories with 16 more to be added. Williams-Sonoma also raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour for U.S.-based hourly associates across the company.
Preserving cultural and craft traditions plays a major role in Williams-Sonoma’s priorities, as well. The company partnered with V-Weave, an ethical rug weaving workshop in India that participates in the company’s social compliance audits, uses responsibly sourced materials and is Nest Certified for Ethical Handicraft. The company committed to an additional $50 million in Nest-certified products by 2025, and an additional $10 million in fair-trade premiums by 2025.
Respect for cultural traditions fuels Williams-Sonoma’s diversity and inclusion efforts, as well. In 2020, the company created an Equity Action Plan to drive positive change and fight against racial injustice. In the past year, improvements have been made through partnering with organizations advancing racial justice; launching a Disability, Education & Advocacy Network (DEAN); and supporting diversity, equity and inclusion education for 9,000-plus associates over 18 months. West Elm reached 22 percent Black-owned local brand assortment and Pottery Barn launched a Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) collection. And the company saw year-over-year improvement in the diversity of new hires.
Williams-Sonoma also joined forces with the Tent Partnership for Refugees, a coalition of more than 250 companies around the world committed to integrating refugees into their host communities. As part of that, the company’s Rejuvenation factory in Portland, Ore., employs a diverse population of refugees and immigrants—60 percent of the factory’s workforce.
As Williams-Sonoma continues to work toward its goals, be they sustainability, ethical sourcing or employee enrichment, it points to the progress made as an indication of all the improvements still to come.
“We stand out in our industry for meeting and exceeding ambitious goals. Like any company, we’ve had setbacks, but they’re far outnumbered by our successes,” Alber said. “As changes accelerate, we’re building on decades of progress in sustainability and social impact. We’re creating a resilient future not just for our company, but for our people and our planet.”