Home Improvement retailer The Home Depot, this week announced companywide sustainability progress in its 2020 Responsibility Report, which outlines the retailer’s 2019 progress on its corporate responsibility strategic pillars: focus on people, operate sustainably and strengthen communities. The report also introduces several new goals and provides an update on the company’s recent response to COVID-19 and social equality issues.

New goals include a commitment to produce and procure energy from 335 megawatts of renewable and alternative energy projects by 2025 – equivalent to the amount of energy it takes to power more than 90,000 homes. Additionally, the company pledged to eliminate expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) film from its private brand packaging by 2023. 

As part of its existing pledge to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2035, The Home Depot reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in 2019, driven primarily by energy reductions and supply chain efficiencies. The company reduced its electricity consumption in U.S. stores by 383 million kilowatt hours, tripling its 2018 reduction while at the same time adding three new U.S. stores to its footprint.

“We believe our commitment to continuing progress on environmental, social and governance issues has made our company stronger, had a lasting positive impact on the environment, deepened our relationships with associates and customers, and created long-term shareholder value,” said Craig Menear, chairman, CEO and president of The Home Depot. “I want to thank our associates and suppliers for the significant progress we made last year and look forward to making meaningful progress in the future.”

The Home Depot’s Corporate Responsibility strategy is centered on three key pillars: focusing on people, operating sustainably, strengthening communities.

Focus on People

The Home Depot continued to make strides in improving its diversity and inclusion in 2019. Last year, more than 33% of new hires were female and more than 50% were ethnically diverse. In 2020, in support of its commitment to racial equality and social justice, the company established an executive-led task force to further expand its ongoing work to strengthen African American and other minority communities, combat discrimination and deepen its diversity.

In 2019, The Homer Fund – The Home Depot’s associate-funded assistance fund – provided more than 8,200 associates with more than $16 million in grants. Since its inception in 1999, The Homer Fund has awarded associates in need more than $200 million in grants.

To support associates during the COVID-19 pandemic, The Home Depot has provided more than $1 billion in expanded benefits to-date. These benefits include expanded paid time off for all hourly associates (and additional time for associates who are 65 and older or in higher-risk categories as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), weekly bonuses for full-time and part-time hourly associates, and extended backup dependent care with no copays.

Operating Sustainably

In 2019, The Home Depot’s U.S. stores used 35% less electricity than they did in 2010. The company’s substantial energy-saving progress in 2019 was led by the rolling installation of LED lighting across its U.S. stores. About 60% of its U.S. stores had LED lighting installed by the end of 2019, and the upgrades continue. Overall, U.S. store energy consumption dropped 12% last year.

As The Home Depot commits to produce or procure energy from 335 megawatts of renewable and alternative energy projects by 2025, the company plans to nearly double the number of stores with on-site solar panels and continue to leverage on-site fuel cells and offsite wind and solar energy.

By partnering with suppliers to improve products and packaging, 1.44 million pounds of plastic were eliminated, and another 7.73 million pounds of virgin plastic were replaced with recycled plastic in 2019.

A more efficient supply chain means reduced business costs and less impact on the environment. By packing trailers to maximize space, the company was able to avoid approximately 10,500 truck trips traveling 15 million miles. The Home Depot is also partnering with other companies to fill underloaded trucks by buying and selling trailer space. And by using artificial intelligence (AI) to leverage data on optimal truck performance based on weight, the company is enabling fuller trucks to use fuel more efficiently.

Strengthening Communities

The Home Depot Foundation continued its efforts to improve the homes and lives of U.S. veterans, assist communities affected by natural disasters and train skilled tradespeople to fill the labor gap. Since 2011, the Foundation’s total investment in veterans causes surpassed $335 million – part of its $500 million pledge by 2025.

The Foundation has established trades training programs for military members and high school students in more than 15 states, as well as an innovative K12 program in Georgia, all part of its $50 million commitment to train 20,000 tradespeople by 2028 to address the skilled labor shortage and provide a path to quality jobs.

In 2019, the Foundation gave $3.5 million to help communities recover from natural disasters and partnered with nonprofits like Operation Blessing, the American Red Cross, Team Rubicon and Convoy of Hope.

Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, The Home Depot has prioritized the safety and well-being of associates and customers, while remaining open to provide essential products and services to its communities. The company has contributed more than $50 million to support communities, including donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to first responders, hospitals and healthcare workers, with more than 95 percent of its stores contributing PPE and other supplies in their local communities.

New to the report this year is the inclusion of disclosures aligned with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) frameworks. The company also continues to apply the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards as an identification and cross-reference tool, which it has done for the last 5 years and highlights 10 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that align within The Home Depot’s sphere of influence. In addition to these disclosure frameworks, the report includes charts on materiality touchpoints, progress on stated goals and an ESG transparency chart that highlights The Home Depot’s key environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics from 2017 through 2019.