Foot Locker Reveals Its Progress in Hitting Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050

Less than a week after announcing a major leadership change, Foot Locker Inc. released its 2021 Fiscal Year Impact Report, which offers a look into its environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts. Included in the report is its climate change pledge.

This pledge includes a goal to hit net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner, which the retailer said is in line with climate scientist recommendations “to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

In the 76-page report, Foot Locker Inc. revealed its progress on several sustainability-driven efforts. In terms of energy efficiency, the company said it completed LED lighting replacements across 100 stores in fiscal 2021, which the company said will result in estimated energy reductions of 748,467 kWh/year. Also, its proactive HVAC retrofitting efforts in the U.S. saved approximately 641,351 kWh. Looking ahead, the report stated its stores in France will be required in fiscal 2022 to implement a series of national energy reduction targets (40% by 2030, 50% by 2040 and 60% by 2050) and that the company plans to handle LED lighting retrofits and the installation of smart meters to monitor and reduce consumption.

Also during fiscal 2021, in an effort to engage consumers in its net zero ambition, Foot Locker Inc. said its Sidestep banner turned Black Friday into Green Friday by committing to plant a tree for every footwear purchase through Eden Reforestation Projects. The initiative, according to the report, resulted in the planting of 23,000 trees, which the company said would equate to offsetting 7,084 tons of carbon dioxide.

In terms of reducing waste and encouraging reuse, Foot Locker Inc. said it recycled 6,321 U.S. short tons of corrugated boxes in fiscal 2021, a 22% year-over-year change from fiscal 2020. And the report stated the company reused nearly 2.1 million boxes in fiscal 2021, a 19% year-over-year change.

Aside from its climate change pledge, Foot Locker Inc. detailed several other priority initiatives, including its work to support the Black community, which the company offered a glimpse into at the start of the month.

For instance, from a people and community perspective, Foot Locker Inc. highlighted its Leading Education & Economic Development (LEED) initiative, which includes a commitment of $200 million over five years (from fiscal year 2020 to fiscal year 2025), aimed at enhancing the lives of its team members and the Black community. As part of LEED, the retailer said its investments in education and economic development initiatives totaled nearly $53.9 million as of the end of fiscal year 2021.

“We stand resolute in our commitment to fight racial inequality and injustice. This commitment extends beyond words. It is part of our culture and the way we operate as an inclusive and diverse organization,” Foot Locker Inc. chairman and CEO Dick Johnson said in the report. “We recognize that Black culture plays a pivotal role in shaping sneaker culture — the foundation of our business at Foot Locker. We believe we have an obligation to add our voice and actions to drive meaningful and lasting change across our company and within the communities we serve.”

In the report, Foot Locker Inc. detailed several specific LEED actions in fiscal year 2021 that were focused on the Black community — most notably, efforts to discover and develop Black-owned brands and Black collaborations for its stores. This included an investment of roughly $16 million with eligible brands such as Pro Standard, Abeille Creations and others. The retailer also developed processes and tools “to ease the on-boarding process, help brands plan their merchandise capsules and enhance cashflow as local brands grow.”

What’s more, the report highlighted other actions with the Black community in mind, such as the funding of a Black-owned creative agency to design marketing assets that were shared with LEED brands for storytelling; the contracting of a Black-owned public relations firm to create stories and opportunities highlighting LEED brands and venture capital fund partners; and a shift in marketing spend to Black-owned agencies, influencers and talent.

From an education perspective, Foot Locker Inc. shared insights into its annual Bridge Internship program that creates paths to corporate office roles for store team members. For fiscal 2021, the company said the program expanded globally and provided more than 40 team members with intern positions in corporate functions.

Also, Foot Locker Inc. partnered with Pensole Design Academy — with support from New Balance — to create opportunities for Black creatives to acquire skills for a variety of industry roles, with the “Designing With Sole” program announced in May 2021. According to the report, the partnership yielded a competitive submission process, with 160 participants selected to participate in a Pensole virtual design studio, as well as a one-year New Balance apprenticeship and a summer 2022 internship with the Foot Locker global product creation team for two recipients. Those two recipients will also have their designs produced and sold in Foot Locker stores.

Foot Locker Inc.’s announcement comes as the company is preparing for a significant transition in its leadership next month.

On Aug. 19, the athletic retail giant announced that Johnson — who has held the CEO title since 2014 after two decades at Foot Locker Inc. — will retire from the position, effective Sept. 1. His successor is Mary Dillon, the former executive chair and CEO of Ulta Beauty. In addition, the company also said that its lead independent director, Dona Young, would replace Johnson as the company’s non-executive chair, effective Jan. 31, 2023.

Dillon and Young will soon shape Foot Locker’s financial future, as well as its social responsibility priorities.

In an interview with FN this week, Johnson said, “They’re great people and they’re great leaders, and that’s ultimately what matters. They both believe in a diverse, inclusive culture, and that’s something that we’ve built at Foot Locker that I’m incredibly proud of. … It’s been one of the hallmarks of my time as CEO, that we’ve tried to find good diverse leaders to lead the company.”

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