Home Depot: This Big Box Has a Smaller Footprint and Bigger IdeasAugust 1, 2012
Last year, Georgia Trend magazine reported that Home Depot ranked among the five leading companies in Georgia for sustainability according to an independent assessment by GreenBusiness WORKS, a nonprofit organization that promotes environmental responsibility in business. Home Depot’s national retail network of 2000 stores (there are about 200 stores in Canada and Mexico) enables it to offer government buyers dedicated and cost-attractive products and services. It is affiliated with the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance, has a federal GSA contract, a contract with the state of Texas, and has simplified purchasing for tax exempt customers.
As agencies green their business practices and purchasing policies, one of the “next steps” is to seek partnerships with vendors whose companies are equally committed to sustainable operations. In many jurisdictions, this is driven by law, ordinance, or regulations mandating environmentally preferable purchasing and green building. For a lot of buyers in the trenches and facilities managers coping with renovations or new builds, it’s no easy task to learn the new ropes of environmentally preferred purchasing and construction policies that consider raw materials acquisition, production, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, reuse, operation, maintenance, disposal, energy efficiency, product performance, durability, safety, life cycle assessment, hazardous materials, third-party certifications and so forth on top of cost. So it’s worth knowing what distinguishes these business leaders and the model standards that they have integrated into their corporate structures, programs, and products that set them apart.
From the earliest blogs, GreenWorksGov has espoused the importance of leadership and support from the top echelon of the organization and sustainability policy saturation into program planning, decision-making, and performance measurement criteria. Home Depot’s strategic initiatives reflect these principles. A Sustainability Council reports to the Senior Leadership Team and the CEO. Goals are set for improvements in energy use, carbon emissions, sustainable product assortment, sustainable operations and supply chain impact. Across the company, Home Depot looks for opportunities to modify policies and practices for environmental benefits. Quarterly reports provide transparency and timely assessment of progress underway.
For example, in 2010 Home Depot boosted its energy savings goal by another 5%, which will produce a reduction by 2015 of 20% since 2004. This is being achieved by a variety of strategies including replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs in lighting displays, lowering the wattage overhead, installing energy-saving HVAC systems, and installing solar panels on dozens of stores. On the merchandising front, Home Depot established an Eco Options program and identifies products that have less impact on the environment, making it easier for customers to buy ‘green’. The sales of these products resulted in an estimated savings of $740 million in utility bills and 1.8 billion gallons of water consumption. Home Depot sells more Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) wood than any other company in North America. FSC is the leading independent certification standard of sustainable harvesting.manufacturing, and transport processes, which are applied “from stump to shelf".
Store operations have undergone significant changes. Fewer parking spaces to increase green space, restroom faucet aerators, low-flush toilets, low-water use landscaping, and a ramped up recycling program have produced dramatic improvements. Home Depot’s measurements for success apply to their suppliers as a component of the company’s commitment to ensure their business partners are optimizing their operations for reduced environmental impact. The company is a member of the Retail Energy Alliance in partnership with the US Department of Energy.
I am scratching the surface of the wealth of information provided on Home Depot’s Environment pages. Sustainability officers, business services and facilities managers and staff will be rewarded with many ideas and concrete examples of how to integrate sustainability criteria into their purchasing and planning decisions. At the same time, Home Depot is one business serving government that offers documented proof that its goods and services meet environmental purchasing standards. This big box is a bright shade of green, and the paint used is no VOC.