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Reducing Our Water Consumption and Waste

August 20, 2019 | Sustainability

A heart-shaped leaf.

We continue to implement new technologies and operational practices to minimize our environmental footprint and contribute to healthier, more sustainable communities. With more than 9,900 retail locations, 22 distribution centers, numerous field offices, and a fleet of 2,500 delivery vehicles, we aim to drive efficiency across all aspects of our business – reducing our carbon footprint, energy usage, water consumption and waste.

Improving Our Water Efficiency

Access to water is critical to the health of our communities. Though our operational water use is not intensive, we use an enterprise-wide water management strategy to provide each site with tailored guidance to reduce consumption.

In 2018, our water usage per square foot of retail space decreased by 3 percent, and our total water use increased by 4 percent from 2017 due to an increase in our store footprint. Through water efficiency measures, total water use per square foot has decreased 31 percent from the 2010 baseline.

For new construction in retail operations, we set a target to reduce water use by 20 percent by 2020. We achieved this goal in our standard prototype stores by the efficient use of irrigation systems and the management of drought resistant plantings. We continue to implement these best practices and evaluate opportunities with our landscape plans.

Minimizing Our Waste and Increasing Recycling

In 2018, we diverted 55 percent of our waste to recycling, with 86 percent of the solid waste generated at our distribution centers diverted for recycling.

In September of 2018, we launched a first-of-its-kind program to address a new California law that prohibits retailers from sending organic waste to landfill. With support from a third-party partner, we developed an innovative solution for managing excess food products in our stores to prevent them from becoming waste. Inventory scanning technology in our stores identifies excess, seasonal or nearly expired food and directs CVS Pharmacy colleagues to place the items in a designated tote which is transported back to our distribution centers and then to third-party facilities. There, inedible organic waste is processed to create renewable energy and organic fertilizer, while quality organics are donated to local charities and food banks – a win for the planet and community health.

In the first four months of this program pilot, we donated more than 650,000 units of organic products and recycled more than 230,000 units. The program is now live in all retail stores in California and the value of the product donated in 2018 is estimated to be $2.1 million.

These efforts build on previously identified waste minimization strategies, such as optimizing the number of SKUs available for sale and modifying the timing of restocking shelves to lessen product expirations in the targeted category by 25 percent.

In 2017, we completed the implementation of a container optimization program for our regulated waste program in our retail stores. From 2017 to 2018, we realized a reduction of over seven tons of cardboard and achieved considerable cost savings.


To learn more about the ways we’re working to protect our planet, read our 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

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