Target discontinues Take Charge of Education

Target (NYSE:TGT) has discontinued its long-standing philanthropy program Take Charge of Education. The program has allowed Target private label credit card holders to designate a local school to which Target would donate a percentage of that shopper's total purchase.

The retailer has given roughly $432 million to more than 100,000 schools in the past 18 years through the initiative.  

Target will terminate the program in May 2016 as part of the retailer's new focus on health and wellness, executives told the Star Tribune. "When that program started, it was incredibly innovative," said Laysha Ward, Target's chief corporate social responsibility officer. "There was nothing else like it out there. We just want to continue to innovate."

Target isn't backing away from giving back entirely. The retailer will continue to donate 5 percent of its profits back to communities, but is simply reimagining "how we express our social responsibility," Ward said.

Target is putting greater focus on health and wellness in stores, as well. The retailer is reimagining the grocery departments to include more healthy options. 

Target began notifying card holders this month that the program would be ending, and at least one customer was not happy about it.

Chicago Tribune reporter Heidi Stevens announced she is canceling her Target Red Card. Stevens received a letter from Scott Kennedy, Target's president of financial and retail services, with her latest bill that read: "As we continue to look for the most impactful ways to support the causes that are most important to our guests, Target has decided to end the Take Charge of Education program as of May 14, 2016."

"His use of the word 'impactful' eased my decision to cancel," writes Stevens, who believes the charitable component for kids programs helped ease the guilt of consumerism. "It's a shame for our schools, this decision that Target executives have made. But maybe those of us who are disappointed by the move can use it as incentive to keep better tabs on our Target shopping and then take the money we don't spend on mindless miscellany and donate it to our local schools."

It is unlikely this will have a measurable impact on Target, but a growing number of shoppers are voting with their dollars to support companies based on shared ethics.

For more:
-See this Star Tribune story
-See this Chicago Tribune story
-See this Aflac study on corporate responsibility

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