100 Grainger Parkway, Lake Forest, IL 60045 (Corporate Headquarters)
Industry: Maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) distribution.
Annual revenue: $13 billion total sales in 2021.
Number of employees: Approximately 24,200 team members.
An interview with Tom Richey, Senior Manager Community Impact at W.W. Grainger.
Q: Describe your company.
A: Grainger is a leading broadline distributor with operations primarily in North America, Japan and the United Kingdom. Grainger achieves its purpose, “We Keep the World Working,” by serving its 4.5 million customers worldwide with a wide range of product categories that keep customer operations running and their people safe. The company also delivers services and solutions, such as technical support and inventory management, to provide tangible value and save customers time and money.
Q: Do you plan to hire any additional staff or make any significant capital investments in your company in the next year?
A: Yes. As the needs of our customers continuously evolve, we will invest in those areas that help fulfill our purpose, “We Keep the World Working.” Over the next several years, we will be accelerating our investment in our supply chain capacity, automation and ESG initiatives to support growth and further our competitive advantage.
Q: Does climate change affect how your company does business?
A: At Grainger, we recognize the urgency of climate change action and employing greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets consistent with the net-zero climate goals of the Paris Climate Agreement. We have a long-standing history of emissions disclosure: in 2012, we became the first industrial distributor to publicly disclose its carbon footprint, and in 2013, we became the first in our industry to set a public GHG emissions reduction target, which we achieved two years early.
Throughout our end-to-end operations, Grainger is committed to reducing our carbon, water and waste footprint in our operations and embedding sustainability into all that we do.
Q: What does your company do to reduce the effects of climate change?
A: Being a responsible citizen of our planet is critical to how Grainger designs its operations from an efficiency and emissions standpoint. Below are a sampling of the actions we’ve taken in support of our commitment to reduce our carbon, water and waste footprint throughout our operations (data representing 2021):
• Grainger works with its supplier partners to stock over 100,000 environmentally preferred products (EPP) to help our customers meet their sustainability goals and reduce the effects of climate change. In 2021, Grainger surpassed $875 million in revenue from EPP.
• Grainger currently has 6.4 megawatts (MW) of solar panel installations at our distribution centers, with plans to expand our solar footprint across key facilities in the near future. These solar installations have resulted in 6.7 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy produced in 2021.
• Team members achieved a 92% recycling rate across our distribution centers, including cardboard boxes, packaging, and palettes.
• Disclose our emissions to the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) every year since 2012 — Grainger was the first industrial distributor to publicly disclose this information in the industry.
• Also the first in our industry to set a public GHG emissions reduction target, which we achieved two years early.
• Since 2018, we have accomplished 68% of the way toward reaching our reduction target of reducing our Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% by 2030 from a 2018 baseline. Our future goal is to reduce emissions by 30% using 2018 as a baseline, which is in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
• Member of the U.S. Green Building Council since 2007;
• Currently have 7.0 million square feet of LEED certified space across 18 facilities (28.8% of Grainger’s total square feet in North America);
• We have the first LEED certified building in MRO history;
• The largest LEED-CI Platinum project of 2015; and
• The world’s first LEED V4 data center.
Q: Is your company minority-owned? Woman-owned? If so, what are the challenges of being a minority- or woman-owned company?
A: Grainger is a public company traded on the NYSE under the symbol GWW. Within Grainger’s U.S. workforce, about 39 percent are women and women occupy over 34 percent of our leadership positions. Grainger’s U.S. workforce is comprised of 37 percent racially and ethnically diverse team members overall, and racially and ethnically diverse employees make up over 24 percent of our leadership positions.
We also prioritize having a diverse supply chain of over 720,000 products from more than 2,800 key small and/or diverse suppliers (minority-, woman-, veteran-, disabled-person- and LGBT-owned businesses for goods and services.) Grainger is proud to have over 20 years of experience partnering with small and diverse businesses through the Channel Development program and the Supplier Diversity program.
Q: What does your company do regarding DE&I (diversity, equity & inclusion)?
A: At Grainger, we believe our differences make us extraordinary. Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is integral to Grainger’s success, and we are committed to fostering an inclusive environment where all team members feel safe, valued and encouraged to voice their opinions. We value all people, regardless of sex, gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender expression or experiences.
To embrace our DEI journey, Grainger has made the following advancements (data representing 2021):
• Diversity across board members (25% racially and ethnically diversity, and 33% women) board members;
• 60% women executive officers;
• Investment in eight Business Resource Groups (BRGs) that advance Grainger’s inclusive environment while serving team members from underrepresented or marginalized groups while seeking support by their allies.
• BeBrave discussions at the enterprise and individual level create a safe space that allow participants to seek different points of view and share their own perspectives and backgrounds with the intention of cultivating an environment where everyone feels welcome and included. In 2021, more than 1,000 leaders participated in six hourlong BeBrave Leadership Circles covering a wide range of topics including:
• Leading Brave Conversations
• Psychological Safety
• Cultural Awareness
• Confronting Bias
• Disability Awareness
Q: Does your company donate time or money to any philanthropic causes? If so, what causes?
A: Our community investments reflect the core of our business, and our commitments are driven by where our resources can be most impactful. In 2021, Grainger contributed more than $96 million in cash and products to nonprofit organizations while empowering team members to contribute at a local level in their neighboring communities.
• Red Cross partnership: Since the beginning of our relationship in 2001, Grainger has donated more than $21 million in cash and product to the American Red Cross. In 2021, we served as a $150,000 member of the American Red Cross Disaster Responder Program, which allows the Red Cross to proactively prepare and respond to disasters, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In September 2022, Grainger hosted a volunteer event at its Lake Forest headquarters where 400 team members filled 4,000 emergency use clean up kits which the Red Cross will distribute in communities affected by natural disasters.
• Volunteer Opportunities: Through Grainger-organized and individual volunteer opportunities, team members recorded 10,400 volunteer hours across various nonprofit organizations in 2021.
• Given the virtual environment during pandemic-relief efforts, team members increasingly participated in the Missing Maps Challenge where they volunteer their time to help map “missing” geographic areas on a computer, helping the Red Cross volunteers and emergency responders locate communities and expedite rescue efforts. Since starting the challenge in 2017, Grainger team members have traced more than 96,600 buildings and recorded more than 1,700 cumulative volunteer hours.
• Matching Gifts Program: The Grainger Matching Charitable Gifts Program aims to amplify our U.S. team members’ personal community support via a 3-to-1 match. In 2021 Grainger granted more than $2 million in matching gift contributions to more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations.
Q: Does your company do anything else to make your community better?
A: With thousands of team members across the United States, we know that individuals want to make an impact in their local communities within organizations that mean the most to them. To amplify donations that team members make to qualifying charities, Grainger’s matching gifts program will match each donation 3-to-1.
In 2021, Grainger granted more than $2 million in matching gift contributions to more than 1,000 nonprofit organizations.
Throughout the year, Grainger also partners with local nonprofit organizations in the Chicago area to build relationships and provide support where possible. In 2021, Grainger contributed more than $96 million in cash and products to nonprofit organizations such as the Chicago & Northern Illinois Chapter of the Red Cross, Lake County School District and more.
Q: What do you do to make your business a good place to work for your employees?
A: We create a welcoming workplace where all team members can be themselves, have opportunities to grow and feel they belong. At Grainger, listening to team member feedback and taking ongoing action to enhance the experience is how we partner to ensure a positive workplace for all current and future talent.
We understand that in order for team members to be their best both at work and in their personal lives, it is critical to lead a healthy lifestyle, so we design our rewards and benefits programs with flexibility and choice, providing team members with the opportunity to find support in all areas of their personal well-being journey.
It’s no secret that the pandemic, inflation and other unforeseen events in our society have caused distress on individuals across the nation over the past two years. To support our team members and their families, we made enhancements to our programs, which now include a free, virtual mental health and financial well-being resources with licensed professionals.
When our team members and their families feel their best, we know they can be extraordinary.
Q: What is one interesting fact about your company that most people may not know?
A: 2022 marks Grainger’s 95th year in business. The company was founded in Chicago and has had strong ties to the city and surrounding suburbs ever since. Today, Grainger has more than 30 million products and 24,200 team members across the world to help our customers focus on what matters. No matter the industry, size or urgent need, our team strives to fulfill our purpose every day — We Keep the World Working — while ensuring we leave the planet, our communities and each other better along the way.