Grainger Corporate Social Responsibility - 2013 Report

Sustainability as a priority

Sustainability for Grainger means doing business the right way. The company applies a continuous improvement mind-set to its sustainability efforts – consistently identifying and executing opportunities across the business to reduce energy use, minimize waste and increase recycling. Grainger’s sustainability efforts are championed by a cross-functional team that is responsible for tracking key environmental metrics and prioritizing opportunities based on both materiality and feasibility. Grainger’s goal is to ensure that the business runs efficiently while contributing to a healthy environment.

Climate Change

Grainger recognizes that climate change is a global issue and the company has put a priority on effectively managing the company’s energy use and providing customers with a growing number of environmentally preferable products. To report and monitor the company’s environmental footprint, Grainger participates in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). CDP is an international nonprofit organization providing the only global system for companies and cities to measure, disclose and share vital environmental information. In 2012, Grainger became the first industrial distributor to publicly disclose its carbon footprint through the CDP.

In 2013, Grainger expanded its CDP disclosure to include operations in Canada and Mexico in addition to its core business in the United States. Grainger’s 2013 CDP disclosure score, which is based on the comprehensiveness of a company’s survey responses, increased from a 73 in 2012 to a 93 in 2013. Grainger’s performance score, which is based on a company’s contributions to climate change mitigation, increased from a rating of C in 2012 to B in 2013. Grainger’s initial public disclosure in 2012 established a baseline and the company is in the process of developing intensity targets to help guide efforts into the future. These targets will take into account business growth plans along with a continuing focus on efficiency in operations.

carbon disclosure project: Grainger’s Disclosure Scores

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Intensity
(metric tons of CO2 equivalent/$1 MILLION Revenue)


Data includes Grainger’s core business operations in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Energy Use

Energy use is a key component of Grainger’s sustainability strategy, and the company’s primary focus is improving energy efficiency at its largest facilities including its distribution centers and corporate offices.

Grainger’s newest distribution centers in Illinois, California and Monterrey, Mexico have building management systems that coordinate and manage mechanical and electrical equipment for maximum efficiency and productivity. The company is also investing in retrofitting its other distribution centers with these energy-saving systems. Building management systems have already been installed at the company’s distribution centers in Memphis and Cleveland and retrofit projects are currently underway at distribution centers in Los Angeles and Jacksonville. On average, Grainger has realized a 10 to 15 percent reduction in energy consumption at its distribution centers after installing the building management systems.

When Grainger determined the need to build a new data center at its corporate headquarters, the company installed a free air cooling system that takes advantage of outside air when at the appropriate temperature to help cool the facility. Throughout the project, Grainger partnered with the U.S. Green Building Council to help determine criteria for a new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification specifically for data centers. When fully operational in 2014, Grainger expects the new data center to consume up to 50 percent less energy for cooling than similar data centers.

Renewable Energy

As part of the company’s emphasis on sustainability investments at its largest facilities, Grainger installed a one-megawatt solar panel system at the San Francisco Distribution Center in 2013, which generates more than 30 percent of the facility’s electrical load. When combined with the three-megawatt solar panel system installed at the New Jersey Distribution Center in 2011, Grainger now has four megawatts of solar capacity.

Growing Efficiently: LEED-Certified Facilities

Grainger’s commitment to growing efficiently includes a focus on building its major new construction projects to LEED standards. In 2008, Grainger became the first industrial distributor to have a LEED certified facility. Today the company operates 16 LEED certified buildings in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Construction is currently underway for the company’s newest distribution center in Toronto, Canada which is being built to LEED specifications.

By sharing best practices across facilities, almost all Grainger buildings have adapted some components of LEED certification requirements in areas such as recycling, waste disposal, lighting and cleaning. For example, the company has retrofitted 168 facilities in Canada and the United States with energy efficient lighting, decreasing annual energy consumption by an average of 15 percent per facility.

Leed Certification

Water and Energy Conservation in Mexico

Grainger’s LEED-certified distribution center in Mexico conserves water and saves money by using low-flow plumbing fixtures as well as a gray water and HVAC water recovery system. The system filters water for non-potable use in and around the facility. The distribution center was built with skylights throughout the warehouse, providing a more pleasant workspace and returning significant savings from reduced lighting costs. Grainger Mexico was recognized by the Nuevo León Government for its socially responsible use of treated wastewater in 2013.

Waste and Recycling

In 2013, Grainger worked to standardize recycling processes across the company’s largest facilities. Grainger’s distribution centers in the United States recycled more than 2,500 tons of cardboard, plastic wrap and metal in 2013, resulting in a 5.1 percent annual improvement in the company’s U.S. distribution center recycling rate.

Grainger also continues to focus on reusing and recycling its information technology (IT) equipment. For example, Grainger recycles all of its obsolete IT equipment in the United States. In 2013, the company sent more than 76 tons of IT equipment to Arrow Value Recovery to be reused or recycled. Since 2002, Grainger’s partnership with Arrow Value Recovery has resulted in more than 1,400 tons of the company’s IT equipment being reused or recycled.

Small Change Adds Up

In 2013, Grainger collected and evaluated energy usage data from the appliances in its branches and found that certain small appliances used a significant amount of energy. Team members were asked to install a timer on each small appliance in their facility so the appliances would shut off automatically when the facility closed at night and on weekends.

Environmentally Preferable Products

Growth of environmentally preferable products on Grainger.com®

Grainger extends its commitment to sustainability to customers by offering products to support the maintenance and operation of sustainable facilities through efficient energy management, water conservation, waste reduction and air-quality improvement. More than 33,000 products, representing almost $600 million in sales in 2013, qualify as environmentally preferable products and are designated by an icon on Grainger.com®. These products are classified by maintaining one or more environmentally preferable certifications or attributes. To provide an additional measure of confidence to customers, Grainger works with experts to help the company verify the accuracy of suppliers’ sustainability product data.

Responsible Distribution

Grainger is the only industrial supplier to be recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency as a U.S. SmartWay partner. The program is market-driven, and it is aimed at helping businesses move goods in the cleanest, most efficient way possible. In addition, since 2009, Grainger boxes used to distribute products in the United States have been made of paper products certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Boxes are 100 percent recyclable.

All Hands on Deck with Living Lands & Waters


Living Lands & Waters is recognized as the only “industrial strength” river clean-up organization in the world. Since 2010, Grainger team members have volunteered in river clean-ups in communities along the Mississippi River, including St. Louis, Mo., Paducah, Ky. and Memphis, Tenn.

“We are very grateful for the partnerships we have built with Grainger. Not only for the financial contributions and safety equipment donations, but also the muscle power from all the employees. This is the perfect example of what a great partnership is.”

Our Commitments