According to the Sustainable Furnishings Council’s most recent consumer research report, 98% of survey respondents expressed concern about environmental issues, including “natural disasters, indoor air quality and global warming.” Now, more than ever, it is critical that companies address those concerns clearly and directly. At Williams-Sonoma, Inc. (WSI) our responsibility extends to every part of our business. We are committed to marketing that is transparent and honest, allowing our customers to make informed choices about the products they purchase. We comply with state and federal marketing laws and regulations, and we internally review and, as needed, work with third-party certification organizations to verify product claims.
Reporting Scope & Methodology
Our commitment to transparency includes clearly defining the methodology behind our claims. We assess our impact using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as well as Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG) standards for electricity and emissions. In 2021, we announced a Science-Based Target (SBT) for emissions reduction by 2030.
We prioritize environmentally conscious materials, and we disclose materials in our product information, including any third-party certifications used. We track responsible materials, and take a Good-Better-Best approach to define our use of responsible cotton and wood. We measure landfill diversion by percent of recycled and composted volume in tons. Our scope includes distribution centers, in-sourced hubs, corporate offices and retail stores in North America.
We report on our progress annually. This report is informed by the Global Reporting Initiative Standards (GRI), the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), and additional assessments that include business goals, areas of sustainable impact, and industry benchmarking.
United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
As one of the world’s largest home retailers, our impact extends beyond our own company into worldwide industry. We understand the urgent need for positive change at every level, so we’ve aligned our strategy to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a global framework for achieving a better future for all.
Goal 1: No Poverty
By 2030, the U.N. targets the need to build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations, reducing their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters. We work with Fair Trade USA™ and HERproject to lift people out of poverty through fair wages and financial literacy education. In 2020, we mobilized funds to provide COVID relief to workers around the world.
Goal 2: Zero Hunger
The U.N. has a target to end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food year-round by 2030. By the end of summer 2020, we’d raised $12.5M+ for No Kid Hungry, an organization working to end child hunger in America by ensuring that all children have access to healthy food.
Goal 3: Good Health & Wellbeing
Prosperous societies require health and wellbeing for all. We’ve made progress in supporting healthy children and families through the use of nontoxic finishes and furnishings. Within our supply chain, we meet high health and safety standards and we now work with 16 Fair Trade Certified™ factories who reach the gold standard for production. Working with VisionSpring, we’ve also provided eye exams and eyewear to workers across Asia. Since 2012, we have donated over $63 million in corporate, customer and associate donations to organizations that promote and strengthen the wellbeing of children, women, families and LGBTQ+ communities — such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital®, No Kid Hungry, AIDS Walk and Canada Children’s Hospitals.
Goal 4: Quality Education
Education enables upward socioeconomic mobility, is a key to escaping poverty and empowers people everywhere to live healthier, more sustainable lives. By the end of 2020, we will have reached 100,000+ workers through education programs for health, financial literacy, and gender equality via partnerships with organizations like HERproject and VisionSpring. In 2019, we conducted financial literacy sessions for our US-based employees, and are working on expanding the program in 2020.
Goal 5: Gender Equality
Today, gender inequality persists globally and stagnates social progress. Women continue to be underrepresented at all levels of leadership. We’re proud that over 50% of our executive positions at the VP level and above are occupied by women, and over 60% of our board members are women. This focus on equality extends from our corporate offices to our stores to our supply chain. In 2019-2021, we appeared on Forbes’ list of Best Employers for Women.
Goal 6: Clean Water & Sanitation
The demand for water has outpaced population growth, and half the world’s population is already experiencing severe water scarcity. Access to water, sanitation and hygiene is a human right, which is why we’ve committed to 100% responsibly sourced cotton by 2021. Organic and responsibly sourced cotton eliminates harmful chemicals in production, keeping water supplies, workers and consumers healthy, while alternative fibers reduce water use in the production cycle. For example, 11x less water is used in our TENCEL™ products, compared to conventional cotton.
Goal 7: Affordable & Clean Energy
A well-established energy system supports all sectors, reducing carbon emissions and increasing access to clean and safe fuel. Our energy efficiency continues to improve as we prioritize LED lighting and retrofit our locations, and our carbon intensity continues to decrease year-over-year since 2011, despite revenue increases. Currently, we’re researching science-based targets to accelerate our efforts and better align our gains with larger climate goals.
Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth
Sustained and inclusive economic growth can drive progress, create decent jobs for all and improve living standards. In addition to providing wages above federal minimums for the majority of our workers in the US and globally, we work with Fair Trade to create healthy and safe working conditions, with additional income for workers in our supply chain. For each Fair Trade Certified™ product, workers earn a premium that they collectively invest in community initiatives that matter most to them.
Goal 9: Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
The U.N. seeks to increase the access of small-scale industrial and other enterprises, in particular in developing countries, to financial services, including affordable credit, and their integration into value chains and markets. Our small business programs — including West Elm LOCAL, Williams Sonoma’s Artisan Makers and Rejuvenation’s Designer & Maker programs — connect local makers and designers to a larger pool of resources, customers and markets.
Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
By 2030, the U.N. hopes to empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status. Equality is a cornerstone of our business, and we deepened our commitments to a diverse workforce in 2019. In 2020, we took significant steps toward racial equity, outlined in our Equity Action Plan.
Goal 11: Sustainable Cities & Communities
The world is becoming increasingly urbanized. Since 2007, more than half the world’s population has been living in cities, and that share is projected to rise to 60 percent by 2030. With stores, offices and distribution centers across major U.S. cities, we focus our efforts on participation and impact in our communities. We provide eight hours of paid Community Involvement Time each year and volunteer annually for company-wide service in recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We also partner with organizations like Good360 to provide aid and assistance to those whose homes have been damaged or lost.
Goal 12: Responsible Consumption & Production
Economic and social progress over the last century has been accompanied by environmental degradation that is endangering the very systems on which our future development and very survival depend. In response, we have changed our production patterns, prioritizing responsible materials and finishes, as well as resilient and sustainable operations. Progress includes 100% FSC-certified catalog paper since 2006, 100% certified nontoxic company-produced Pottery Barn Kids bedroom and nursery furniture by 2020, 100% responsibly sourced cotton and 50% responsibly sourced wood by 2021.
Goal 13: Climate Action
As greenhouse gas levels continue to climb, climate change is occurring at much higher rates than anticipated, and its effects are evident worldwide. We are acting now by committing to 75% landfill diversion by 2021. We also continue to reduce our carbon emissions and electricity intensity while researching science-based targets.
Goal 14: Life Below Water
By 2025, the U.N. seeks to prevent and significantly reduce marine pollution of all kinds, particularly from land-based activities, including marine debris and nutrient pollution. Through use of REPREVE® certified recycled plastic fibers, we’ve kept 57 million plastic bottles from polluting oceans. We will also be sourcing 100% responsible cotton by 2021, reducing harmful chemicals in waterways.
Goal 15: Life on Land
Forests cover nearly 31 percent of our planet’s land area. To preserve forests and their biodiversity, we work with the Forest Stewardship Council® to certify 100% of our catalog paper and a growing percentage of the wood we use in our furniture. Additionally, we work with the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) and NEPCon to source rediscovered, controlled and verified legal and low-risk wood to meet our goal of 50% responsibly sourced wood by 2021.
Goal 16: Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions
As part of this goal, the U.N. seeks to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence and torture against children. Our rigorous social compliance and audit programs are committed to eradicating human trafficking, child labor and forced labor in our global product supply chains.
Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
To meet these goals requires the encouragement and promotion of effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships. We partner with NGOs, third-party certifiers and field-level sustainability standards to verify sustainability claims on select products and practices, sharing knowledge, resources and driving sustainable business.
Related Stories, Statements & Policies
- WSI Ranks on Barron’s 100 Most Sustainable U.S. Companies
- REPREVE® Names WSI a Champion of Sustainability
- Rejuvenation Earns Gold for Green Business
- Pottery Barn Kids Reaches GREENGUARD Goal
- Product Safety & Testing
- Climate & Energy Statement
- Responsible Materials & Finishes
- Waste & Circularity
- Environmental Policy
- Ethical Marketing
- Wood & Paper Procurement Policy
- Fiber Procurement Policy
- Human Rights Policy