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J.C. Penney Steps Up Sustainable Sourcing Commitments

J.C. Penney is stepping up its corporate sustainability commitments with advancements in responsible sourcing, energy conservation and recycling.

The retailer recently published its 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, highlighting its community and sustainability efforts across its global operators. The report, which highlights activities for fiscal years 2015 and 2016, reflects J.C. Penney’s ongoing commitment to workers, consumers, the environment, it’s products and the greater apparel industry.

J.C. Penney collaborated with Texas A&M University’s 180 Degrees Consulting Group on the 2017 report and learned stakeholder’s CSR reporting expectations. Six students from the university evaluated J.C. Penney’s global operations and provided suggestions to the company based on their findings. The student group’s key recommendations tailored the 2017 report and divided J.C. Penney’s commitments based on the following pillars—people, communities, products and planet.

“The Golden Rule has guided every customer interaction at J.C. Penney for over a century, and we understand the importance of applying a similar ideology to our global efforts in social responsibility and environmental sustainability,” said Marvin R. Ellison, chairman and chief executive officer at J.C. Penney. “We recognize the important role we play in being a responsible employer, neighbor and community advocate, and acknowledge the significance of positively connecting with younger consumers who share these values.”

Responsible sourcing

J.C. Penney, which purchases merchandise from nearly 2,600 domestic and foreign suppliers, is stepping up its sourcing compliance efforts.

The retailer’s international Social and Environmental Responsibility team currently works with an industry-leading third-party auditor that carries out social compliance audits of factories that produce private-label products for J.C. Penney. The audits monitor these factories on social and environmental laws, health and safety issues and requirements related to excessive overtime and child labor.

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For fiscal years 2015 and 2016, J.C. Penney’s third-party auditor conducted more than 2,000 social audits of factories that produced J.C. Penney’s private-label merchandise. Last year, the company extended this testing to textile mills for the first time, completing more than 100 assessments of environmental and social performance to improve and monitor mill conditions.

In addition to reaching these compliance milestones, J.C. Penney is continuing its membership with non-profit organizations, including the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety to protect garment workers in Bangladesh, Natural Resources Defense Council sustainability program Clean by Design (CBD) and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), to foster a universal approach for measuring sustainability performance.

[Read more on retailer’s sustainability commitments: Esprit Elevates Supply Chain Sustainability Commitments]

Energy conservation

Reducing emissions is part of J.C. Penney’s corporate sustainability agenda, and the retailer has made significant progress in energy conservation over the past two years.

In 2015, J.C. Penney set an energy emissions goal to reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions per square foot by 15 percent by 2020. To date, the retailer has surpassed its goal by reducing emissions by 19.6%, primarily driven by its new company-wide energy management program.

J.C. Penney currently monitors energy use across its supply chain through EnergyCenter. This energy management system puts together and displays energy data to help J.C. Penney’s energy team develop energy-saving solutions. This platform also allows J.C. Penney to share recommended energy conservation practices, rank each location’s Energy Star performance score and benchmark J.C. Penney facilities with similar retail facilities. Nearly 840 J.C. Penney stores—roughly 95 percent of J.C. Penney’s brick-and-mortar fleet—use an energy management system that adjusts cooling, heating and lighting systems.

The retailer is also continuing its partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Star program. J.C. Penney has received Energy Star’s Partner of the Year, Sustained Excellence designation for a decade. As part of this designation, J.C. Penney displays the Energy Star logo at more than 650 Energy Star certified buildings throughout the company—including its Texas-based home office, one distribution center and stores nationwide—and its buildings have performed within the top 25 percent for energy efficiency among similar structures.

Responsible recycling

Circularity remains a core mission of J.C. Penney and the retailer has advanced its progress on recycling and waste reduction.

The retailer wants to reduce its carbon footprint ans is working to recycle 85 percent of its annual domestic waste by 2020. To advance this goal, J.C. Penney increased its recycling rate to 80 percent last year, up nine points since 2014. In 2016, the company recycled 74,000 tons of waste and decreased its waste to landfill by 5,000 tons over the past three years. In 2015 and 2016, J.C. Penney recycled an estimated 174,000 tons of waste—equating to roughly 80 percent of total waste from its operations.

The company is continuing to monitor waste management by analyzing waste streams, engaging store leadership to foster recycling practices, onboarding consumers to recycle their apparel and requiring recycling to be considered before waste disposal.