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Williams-Sonoma Aims to be Carbon Neutral by 2025

Williams-Sonoma is cooking up something for the planet.

The retail giant, which bills itself as the world’s largest digital-first, design-led and sustainable home retailer, announced Thursday new science-based targets for emissions reductions across its value chain, including a goal to achieve carbon neutrality in its own operations by 2025.

Williams-Sonoma—which owns Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, PBteen, Mark & Graham, Rejuvenation and West Elm, as well as its eponymous Williams-Sonoma and Williams-Sonoma Home brands—said it’s among the first in its industry to work with the Science Based Targets Initiative to reduce its emissions, “in line with climate science,” and help limit additional global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

By 2025, Williams-Sonoma will be “100 percent carbon neutral” for all Scope 1 and 2 emissions, a feat it will accomplish in part by retrofitting and upgrading existing systems to more energy-efficient versions across its offices, stores and distribution centers. In addition, the company will install solar panels “where appropriate,” purchase green power whenever possible and support new renewable energy projects through power purchase agreements, it said.

The ultimate goal, Williams-Sonoma said, is to achieve a 50 percent absolute reduction in Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2030, and a 14 percent absolute reduction in Scope 3—meaning indirect—emissions from materials, production, transportation and product use. To manage operations outside of its direct control, the retailer says it will develop a preferred materials strategy, switch to lower-impact options such as recycled polyester and work with key suppliers to create reduction and renewable strategies and roadmaps.

All of this is part of Williams-Sonoma’s Good by Design strategy of striving for quality, safety and sustainability throughout its business, said Laura Alber, the company’s president and chief executive officer.

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“We are thrilled to announce our new climate goals of carbon reduction across our supply chain,” Alber said in a statement. “We understand these commitments play an important role in the sustainability of our planet and look forward to continuing our work to create a more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Williams-Sonoma’s announcement—and those of many brands with Earth Day this week—is indicative of the growing importance of sustainability in consumer purchasing decisions.

A survey by logistics technology firm Pitney Bowes, published Thursday, found that one-third of consumers (38 percent) are more likely to shell out for products with sustainable features or packaging. Of that group, 10 percent is actively looking for these products, while 28 percent are more inclined to buy products based on responsible attributes such as sustainable materials, sustainable packaging or earmarking portion of proceeds for environmental causes.

Those who identify as sustainability-minded tended to be younger (Gen Z and millennials), affluent (with a household income of above $100,000), parents and urban dwellers, the survey found. In fact, nearly half of each of these demographics identify as sustainable shoppers.

“A growing number of consumers are demanding more environmentally friendly choices from retailers,” Gregg Zegras, EVP and president of global e-commerce at Pitney Bowes, which interviewed more than 2,000 online shoppers, said in a statement. “This is clear not only in our latest survey results, but with brands also moving quickly to show progress on sustainable manufacturing and distribution.”

Because e-commerce, which has ticked up during the pandemic, represents “greater choice” for consumers, Zegras added, “as more shopping takes place online, consumers are wielding this power to support brands that care about sustainability.”

Still, the survey noted, sustainability isn’t a universally top-of-mind consideration—at least, not yet. The majority of consumers (59 percent on average) don’t factor in social or environmental features when making a purchase, either because they don’t notice these elements or because sustainability has no impact on their shopping behaviors.

One possible impediment? Price. According to the poll, 67 percent of consumers believe that a box shipped with sustainable packaging costs more than one packed with more conventional materials, despite having the same contents. Consumers, Pitney Bowles said, believe that sustainable packaging is worth an average of $5.70 more than its “traditional” counterpart.