In 2020, Nordstrom established a new set of five-year goals centered around areas it can have the most impact: corporate philanthropy, environmental sustainability and human rights. “The last year has put an exclamation point on things that were already there,” said Scott Meden, chief marketing officer. “We’ve seen first-hand the impact of not having racial equity, we’ve seen the impact of climate change. It’s increasingly important to our customers and to our employees — and even more so during the past year — to our investors.”
As part of its strategy, the company is focusing heavily on the markets it serves, including New York, where it has committed $5 million to the community. “When we go into new cities, one of the things we do is meet with all the nonprofits in that area. We start every relationship as a give-back relationship,” said Gigi Ganatra Duff, VP of public relations and corporate affairs.
Nordstrom’s 2020 corporate giving through grants totaled $8.3 million, benefiting more than 300 organizations. Including product givebacks, employee giving and cause marketing campaigns, the company donated more than $11 million.
Despite facing formidable challenges of its own during the pandemic, Nordstrom forged ahead with corporate philanthropy initiatives.
Its partnership with Shoes That Fit, a nonprofit that donates new pairs of shoes to kids in need, has been going strong for a decade. When customers purchase a $10 giving card during the back-to-school season, they help provide a pair of new, properly fitting athletic shoes to a child at a local elementary school. “We have such a belief in the power of a pair of shoes,” Meden said.
In 2020, the retailer donated almost 43,000 pairs of shoes to kids in local communities, which translated to $847,712 in dollar value.
The company’s giveback brands within its Nordstrom Made division are also crucial to its philanthropic endeavors, according to Ganatra Duff. Take Treasure & Bond, where the company donates 2.5 percent of net sales. Since 2014, the company has raised $6.7 million for youth in need through Treasure & Bond, and in 2020 it donated $1.1 million to its partners at WE Charities and the Homeless Youth Cohort. Nordstrom also plans to partner with local organizations that support youth experiencing homelessness in five of its key markets: New York, Toronto, Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.
The retailer’s first gender-inclusive collection, Be Proud by BP, launched during Pride Month in 2020, and it donated 10 percent of sales — more than $43,000 — to True Colors United, an organization serving the unique needs of LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness. Other beneficiaries of Nordstrom’s corporate giving initiatives include Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Canada, Good + Foundation and Brides Across America. “Those programs don’t happen without our employees,” said Ganatra Duff. “They are the ones who are talking to our customers, talking up our partnerships and bringing them to life. They’re doing the volunteering.”
For the entire Nordstrom team, 2020 brought some burning issues to the forefront, including racial inequality. To promote anti-racism efforts, Nordstrom added a new 2025 goal to double its giving to nonprofit organizations, bringing the total to about $1 million per year. “That was a big moment for us. It was a no-brainer,” said Meden.
Nordstrom knows that the impact of its business extends well beyond its stores — and it has stepped up its efforts to create safe, healthy and fair workplaces for people around the world who make its products.
“This is a really important piece for us because we aren’t just a retailer. We also manufacture our own products.” said Ganatra Duff. “We’re leaning into it to the point where we’re hosting trainings at the factories. We’re doing virtual sessions. We’re partnering with some of our suppliers. How can we work together to make sure we’re continuing [to focus] on those kinds of programs that create transparency and define what is an ethical working practice.”
In the factories where Nordstrom makes its products, about 70 percent of the factory workers are women. “How do we make sure that those factories are investing in women’s issues, especially in countries where that’s more of a concern?” Meden said, noting that human rights issues in China and other countries are at the forefront. One of Nordstrom’s major goals is to ensure its factories and suppliers pay a living wage. “That is a global conundrum. A living wage is considered so different in so many different parts of the world. Just by making the statement that this is important to us is huge,” said Ganatra Duff.
Addressing climate change, reducing the impact of products and services and accelerating circularity are among Nordstrom’s chief priorities. “Being an outdoor person, I think a lot about climate change,” said Meden.
One of Nordstrom’s 2025 goals is to establish a science-based target to help the company reduce its Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. “That in itself is an 18-month process,” Meden said. “We’re certainly doing the things we can with our carbon footprint, but you need to understand the whole impact.”
One area where it knows it can make a difference is by eliminating its Nordstrom Rack plastic shopping bags and replacing them with paper bags. “Somewhere around half of our single-use plastics were coming from the shopping bag,” Meden said. The move will help eliminate more than 450 tons of hard-to-recycle plastic annually.
In addition to aiding the environment through its own business and within its supply chain, Nordstrom is empowering customers. In 2019, the retailer introduced Sustainable Style, a shoppable category, and in 2020, it added beauty products to the assortment — including Kiehl’s, True Botanicals and MAC Cosmetics. “That’s been a big win for us. We know our customers love it,” said Ganatra Duff. By 2025, the company aims for 15 percent of its offering to qualify as Sustainable Style.
Nordstrom also continues to operate its clothing donation program, which extends the lifecycle of apparel, and is making an impact with a new initiative in the beauty space: Beauty Cycle. The partnership with TerraCycle — the first of its kind for a retailer — allows customers to bring back all beauty packaging waste for recycling, not just brands that are sold in Nordstrom.
The ultimate goal? To take back 100 tons of hard-to-recycle packaging by 2025.