It’s estimated that the U.S. alone uses 100 billion plastic bags per year, and less than 10 percent of these bags are recycled.
At the same time, the average retail plastic bag is only used for 12 minutes
That’s why CVS Health recently joined Closed Loop Partners, and other leading retailers, including Target and Walmart, to launch a new initiative to reinvent the single-use retail plastic bag. The Beyond the Bag Initiative aims to identify, pilot and implement new design solutions and models to create an improved customer experience without unintended environmental consequences.
“We came to this initiative with both the health of the planet and the health of all people in mind,” said Eileen Howard Boone, SVP, Corporate Social Responsibility & Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer, CVS Health. “We know they are inextricably linked.”
CVS Health’s participation in this initiative recognizes that reinventing the retail bag requires a coordinated industry approach and brings together many types of retailers to look at this question from a variety of angles. The work will consider customers at all of the nearly 10,000 CVS Pharmacy locations, in rural, suburban and urban communities, where the need for a retail bag can be different. Working with Closed Loop Partners and other companies that are part of this initiative, CVS Health will carefully consider the consumer experience as part of the work to innovate in this space.
The company’s participation in and its financial commitment to this initiative is just one step on its journey to transform health over the next decade. Launched in May, the company’s Transform Health 2030 corporate social responsibility roadmap outlines CVS Health’s commitment to positively impacting the people and communities it serves, while supporting the health of its business and the planet. In addition to working with the Beyond the Bag Initiative, CVS Health has set goals to reduce its overall environmental impacts and made commitments related to responsible sourcing and chemical management.
CVS Health’s commitment to this initiative is driven by the company’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health. Creating an innovative retail bag solution for the millions of customers the company serves will help to make both local communities and the whole planet a healthier place.
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.
Our colleagues care deeply about the health of the planet and support our sustainability efforts through volunteerism and every day actions to embed sustainability at home and at work. Their passion to create a healthier, more sustainable planet, along with their insights and ideas, have helped ignite some of our key initiatives.
Cleaning Up Our Coastline
CVS Health is a proud partner of Ocean Conservancy and is a member of the Trash Free Seas Alliance. Through our partnership and colleague participation in the International Coastal Cleanup, we have helped remove more than 2 million pieces of tobacco-related trash from coastlines in 2018. Cigarettes butts are the most commonly found items littering our shorelines, and hundreds of CVS Health colleagues across the country joined cleanup events in their local communities to support these efforts.
Going Green through Action and Education
To inspire our colleagues to make more sustainable choices on a daily basis, we established a 2020 target for colleagues to log 10,000 green actions on our online volunteer portal, CVS Health Community Crew. Green actions, such as recycling at home, turning off water while brushing teeth or switching to online bill pay, reduce personal environmental impacts. Since establishing this target, colleagues have logged more than 6,000 green actions in Community Crew. Collectively, colleague green actions have saved 3 million gallons of water, avoided 224,000 metric tons of carbon emissions, saved 225,000 kilowatts of energy and avoided 45,000 pounds of waste.
Our GreenTeam Colleague Resource Group (CRG) promotes awareness, provides education and works to make environmental sustainability a relevant part of every colleague’s role and responsibility. Today, the GreenTeam has more than 1,000 members across the country, a 45-percent increase over 2017, and continues to grow.
To learn more about the ways we’re working to protect our planet, read our 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.
CVS Health is pleased to announce its greenhouse gas emission (GHG) reduction targets have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), as part of our commitment to ensuring our company’s actions are aligned with current climate science.
As part of our goal, CVS Health is committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 36 percent by 2030 from a 2010 base-year. CVS Health also commits that 70 percent of its suppliers by emissions will set science-based emissions reduction targets on their scope 1 and 2 emissions by 2023.
The SBTi is a collaboration between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The SBTi defines and promotes best practice in science-based target setting and independently assesses and approves companies’ targets.
Science-based targets provide companies with a clearly defined pathway to future-proof growth by specifying how much and how quickly they need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Targets adopted by companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are considered “science-based” if they are in line with the level of decarbonization required to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
To learn more about our commitment to sustainable operations, read our 2017 Corporate Social Responsibility report.
CVS Health colleagues are committed to giving back to their local communities, whether volunteering at a community health center to offer medical screenings, serving on a nonprofit board, or talking to local students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
To extend this spirit of volunteerism and as part of our commitment to increase our engagement around environmental sustainability among our colleagues, we developed the new GreenTeam Colleague Resource Group (CRG). The goal of the GreenTeam is to harness this enthusiasm and engage colleagues across the organization in supporting the health of the environment.
“When launching the GreenTeam CRG, our goal was to inspire and drive passion among colleagues regarding environmental sustainability,” says Nadine King, Manager, Corporate Environmental at CVS Health and Enterprise Co-Chair for the GreenTeam. “A lot of people who aren’t in the corporate environmental department at CVS Health still want to do something for the greater good, and together we can have a big impact.”
The GreenTeam was formally launched in 2016, and has hosted events throughout early 2017 to engage colleagues in green initiatives and grow membership. The GreenTeam has garnered support from senior leaders including its Executive Sponsor, Eileen Howard Boone, SVP of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy. By early 2017, more than 150 colleagues had joined the first chapter at CVS Health’s Rhode Island headquarters. The GreenTeam has plans to expand nationwide; colleagues across the country have indicated interest in forming new chapters.
The GreenTeam’s mission is to make environmental sustainability a relevant part of every colleague’s role and responsibility. “We hope the GreenTeam will bring together colleagues from diverse backgrounds, perspectives and business areas,” says Caitlin O’Donnell, Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility at CVS Health and Enterprise Co-Chair for the GreenTeam. “This should help us develop innovative ideas that can be implemented across our business units.”
Incorporating colleague feedback
Colleague feedback is vital to sustaining membership, and the team takes member opinions into consideration when planning events and communications. The group will serve as a forum for information about CVS Health sustainability initiatives, offer tips about how colleagues can make an impact outside the office, and host events that support the environment and health of local communities.
“In our daily operations and even with special events, like the CVS Health Charity Classic, we strive to be mindful of the environment and think of ways to reduce our impact,” King says.
Setting a model for other chapters, the Rhode Island chapter will organize three or four volunteering events each year, such as cleanups at beaches and parks.
“By coming together, we can help promote sustainability not only for the company, but for ourselves, our families and our local communities,” O’Donnell says.