From Sustainable Design to Responsible Retail
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 partnerships like The Renewal Workshop
- Recycling products and materials at our Sutter Street factory
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, and in 2020 Pottery Barn became the first home retailer to partner with The Renewal Project, giving a second life to products across bedding, bath, curtains, pillows, throws, table linens and robes. 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.