As a major multi-channel retailer, we face tremendous challenges and opportunities to reduce waste while also generating cost savings. Landfill waste releases methane gas, contributing to climate change and potentially leaching contaminants into groundwater. To reduce waste while improving the carbon footprint of our operations and materials, we’re focused on:

  • Sustainable Design
  • Recycled Materials
  • Landfill Diversion
  • Circular Economies
The Big Sur Collection is made at our Sutter Street Factory with recycled components. Image: Pottery Barn.

Sustainable Design

Waste reduction begins with using sustainable or fewer materials. In addition to using sustainable materials — such as organic cotton, recycled or alternative fibers, and sustainably sourced wood — our design teams consider a product’s quality and lifespan.

For example, Pottery Barn’s Big Sur Seating Collection is modular, so it can adapt as people rearrange rooms or change homes. It’s assembled in America at our Sutter Street Factory in North Carolina, where upholsterers use partially recycled heavy-gauge, no-sag steel sinuous springs, and seat cushions made with a minimum of 50% recycled materials. It’s also GREENGUARD Gold-Certified, meaning it’s screened for more than 10,000 chemicals and VOCs commonly known to pollute indoor air.

Our Emmerson Collection is made from reclaimed wood. Image: West Elm.

Recycled Materials

Materials like recycled cotton or REPREVE® fiber, made from upcycled plastic bottles, send less waste to the landfill. At our Sutter Street factory in North Carolina, we’re transforming recycled fabric and hardware into sofas, like Pottery Barn’s Comfort Eco Collection. Sutter Street also leads in the production of recycled furniture, such as sofas made with recycled steel springs and recycled cushion fill, including the popular Cameron Collection, Big Sur Collection and Canyon Collection. Much of our furniture, like West Elm’s best-selling Emmerson Collection, is made from reclaimed wood. Across our brands, many products are made from recycled materials — including textiles, decor, glassware and cookware.

Our Robin Sleep System is roll-packed in a recyclable box. Image: West Elm.

Landfill Diversion

At Williams-Sonoma, Inc., we’ve committed to 75% landfill diversion across our operations by 2021. We recycle and compost in our stores, distribution centers and corporate offices, while prioritizing the production of long-lasting, nontoxic products. To reduce product waste, we’re collaborating with partners such as Good360 to divert usable products and materials from landfills to nonprofits and community organizations. 

Packaging

Product packaging and recycling remain difficult challenges, where we see the opportunity to make real progress on our landfill diversion rate. In 2020, we are beginning a major initiative to transition our packaging to curbside-recyclable materials like cardboard, and we’re working to reduce packaging volume in general.

Restoration of mid-century chairs at Rejuvenation’s vintage upholstery studio. Image: Rejuvenation.

Investing in the Circular Economy

We recognize the importance of extending a product’s life as the best way to avoid the landfill. Through thoughtful use of resources, we can design longer lasting products while participating in the circular economy. We’ve implemented circular business models through:

  • Donating unsold products to local nonprofits 
  • Providing product rental through partners such as Rent the Runway
  • Participating in product resale through potential partnerships 
  • Recycling products and materials at our Sutter Street factory

Donations

Williams-Sonoma, Inc. works with donation programs that coordinate pickup and drop-off between our distribution centers and local nonprofits. In 2019, our Sutter Street factory donated Pottery Barn furniture to the Catawba Valley Community College Foundation’s conference room and staff offices, as well as to Catawba County’s Claremont Library. Programs like this keep returned and unsold products in use, giving them a second life.

Rentals & Resale

We are currently exploring rental and resale business models. In 2019, West Elm piloted a rental program with Rent the Runway (RTR), and the brand is exploring resale programs with additional partners. Items such as samples, returns and products that have experienced moderate wear and tear could potentially be sold through secondary markets. Pilot programs such as these allow Williams-Sonoma, Inc. brands to test and fine-tune our approach, sharing knowledge before expanding programs across brands.

Assessing Our Impact

We measure waste reduction by percent of recycled and composted volume diverted from landfill in tons. Scope includes distribution centers, in-sourced hubs, corporate offices and retail stores in North America.

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