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GreenTowns presents:

Greenopia's Guide to National Retailers
Eco-Friendly and Green Ratings Guide

Shop So Your Impact Drops

Greenopia just updated its Big-Box Retailer Guide for the 2011 holiday season and we were tremendously surprised with how much progress big-box retailers have made since we started conducting this study about 4 years ago. This year marked the first time that all retailers received a score of at least 1 Greenopia leaf. This means that each big-box retailer that we studied was making at least a light green effort to reduce its impact on the environment.

Years ago, in the first iteration of this guide, only a handful of major retailers were doing enough environmentally to warrant at least a 1 leaf ratings. Now our 1 leaf level has almost become the corporate norm.

While we still encourage our readers to shop at local mom and pops whenever possible, we still feel it is important to highlight the strides that have been taken in the corporate world and note that this improvement is a testament to how far the environmental movement has come in a short amount of time.

For example, it used to be uncommon for a major company to have any sort of sustainability report. Now, almost every corporation has one (and usually a very comprehensive report at that).

Environmental considerations used to be viewed as a cost, but now we see sustainability becoming entwined into corporate culture. Now many sustainable practices are becoming synonymous with business best-practices.

We hope to see these trends progress and look forward to continue reporting on major corporations and the initiatives they are undertaking to lower their environmental impact.

Name Sales ($Billions) # of Stores Corporate Transparency Green Building Design Supply Chain Recycling Green Stock Leaf Score

Best Buy
$50.30 1150 Yes Yes No Yes No

$88.91 592 No Yes No Yes Yes

Home Depot
$67.99 2248 No No Yes Yes Yes

$32.51 326 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

JC Penney
$17.75 1107 Yes Yes No No No

$18.40 1089 Yes Yes Yes Yes No

$48.81 1749 No Yes Yes Yes Yes

$22.93 2248 Yes Yes Yes No No

$67.39 1591 No Yes No Yes No

$421.85 8,970 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Which Big-Box Retailers Are the Greenest?

During the holiday season, Greenopia always get a lot of inquiries about which retailers are doing the most to be green. We try to answer this question in our 2011 Environmental Retailer Guide. For the fourth straight year, the greenest overall retailer in our study was Ikea. The Swedish retail giant continues to raise the bar for what corporations should strive for and is a paragon of what a brand can do when it sets its mind to be greener.

Ikea does an incredible amount of things to lower its environmental footprint and is one of the few companies to have substantial environmental initiatives in every area of its corporate lifecycle. Some environmental highlights of Ikea include almost half of its energy coming from renewable sources, very aggressive initiatives for sustainable wood and organic cotton sourcing, and arguably the best sustainability report of any major retailer.

The next greenest retailers this year were Best Buy and Kohl's. Best Buy sports one of the best take-back programs for electronics out of any retailer and Kohl's has been one of the corporate leaders on the renewable energy front. Kohl's also has some of the greenest building initiatives of any brand with around 500 of their buildings being Energy Star certified and over 70 having achieved some level of LEED certification.

We hope our readers check out some of the great initiatives presently undertaken by these companies and encourage these brands to take even additional steps to be greener!

*GreenTowns is pleased to officially host the Greenopia ratings guide above, as part of our mission to connect and celebrate efforts to grow sustainability across America. ( Click here for policies for publishing this information on other sites.)


Even though we here at Greenopia are all about supporting local green businesses, sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have to shop at a large national retailer. As you may imagine, there is a lot of variation in the environmental performance amongst the biggest retailers in the U.S., so we have scoured their sustainability reports, certifications, and other sources to collect information regarding their greenness.

One thing to point out is that the way we rate these companies (explained in more detail below) is not the same as our local business ratings. To put it simply, national chains would not be able to meet the rigorous criteria that we use to analyze smaller businesses (except a select few, who we already list). And, we also have to keep in mind that it is not realistic for us to assume a national chain can become green overnight. They have much more complicated supply chains and larger stores to deal with than smaller, local businesses. But, since chains have a larger overall impact, it is important that they become green and we want to support the chains that are going the extra mile.

Thus in the spirit of providing the best green information we can, we have awarded a leaf rating and description of some of largest retailers in the US showing if they are green and how they can improve. We have also created a scorecard with various icons showcasing the specific areas in which the corporations excel relative to the rest of the industry.

Our leaf awards are based on the following:

  • Green Building Design
  • Supply Chain
  • Recycling/Take-Back Programs
  • Stock
  • Sustainability Reporting
  • Green Power
  • Some Notable Environmental Initiatives or a Dedicated Light Green Brand.
  • Solid Environmental Initiatives.
  • A Very Strong Environmental Commitments.
  • An Environmental Leader in this Industry.

Sustainability Report

Oftentimes a sustainability report is the only way for the general public to easily track down environmental information about large corporations. In reality, only a few companies take the time to publish sustainability reports every 1-2 years and even fewer publish reports of any true value. We scored companies based off how thorough their environmental reporting was. Also, for us to consider something a sustainability report, it had to be updated at least every 2 years, set clear environmental goals for the company, and track their progress over time in several environmental indicators. In order to receive this icon on their scorecard, a company had to meet 75% of the criteria in this category.

Green Building Design

There are a variety of things that companies are doing to green their buildings ranging from some minor improvements like using energy efficient light bulbs and/or fixtures to more dedicated efforts like building green stores, requiring that every new store meets LEED standards, or powering a large number of their stores with renewable energy. Companies were given points based off the green building design elements they were incorporating into their present and future stores. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.

Supply Chain

Certain retailers have different standards for their vendors. Some just care whether or not the vendor is in basic environmental compliance, while others go as far as to work with vendors to redesign packaging or to only work with vendors who are have a stellar environmental track record. We know that refining a supply chain takes a lot of time and money so we wanted to promote the firms that are making this effort. Chains were rated by how much they have done to green their supply chain. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.

Recycling/Take-Back Programs

At this point, recycling things like office paper is trivial, almost everyone does it. But it is much rarer for stores to offer take-back programs for the products they sell that may contain hazardous inputs. And to those who claim that retailers shouldn't be the ones to carry this cost, don't forget that retailers profit off the sales of these items too and some have already taken the initiative to be responsible for these items (and don't worry, we hold manufacturers accountable for take-back in our product ratings as well). Companies were given points depending on how thorough and widespread their take-back efforts were. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category.


It's important to note how many green products a company buys and sells. We gave companies points based off the percentage of green products that they carried. Companies receiving this icon on their scorecard met at least 50% of our criteria in this category (This is not the same as saying 50% of their stock was green; we instead looked at how many green brands companies offered and if they were promoted in a special way).

Green Power

Companies have begun to utilize renewable energy in a variety of ways. On a small scale, some chains have solar panels on a few stores in favorable climates, others purchase offsets for their energy footprint, and others use renewable energy from local providers. In our mathematical ratings, this criterion was considered under the green building design category, but no scorecard icon was given.

Find out, and help make it greener.