Can bargain shopping be eco-friendly? Yes, but it matters where you shop.

Department stores play a role in the shopping decisions in the lives of many. A department store is a retail establishment with a building open to the public which offers a wide range of consumer goods such as clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances. It typically offers a choice of multiple merchandise lines, at variable price points, in different product categories Certain department stores are further classified as discount stores. Deciding which store to support can be stressful at any point, so we’ve tried to break down two of the more known department store companies and what your purchase will support.

Why you should trust us

At Ethically, we compile scores from over 700 verified sources to create a granular profile of more than 10,000 companies and brands, evaluating their impact on the environment, society at large, and good business. You can learn more about Ethically’s process in our Methodology and you can see the scores yourself by downloading the Ethically browser extension.

The companies


TJX operates its flagship brand, TJ Maxx (in the United States) and TK Maxx (in Europe), Marshalls, HomeGoods, HomeSense, Sierra in the United States, and HomeSense, Marshalls, Winners in Canada. There are over 4,557 discount stores in the TJX portfolio located in nine countries. TJX ranked No. 85 in the 2018 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.


Kohl’s is an American department store retail chain, operated by Kohl’s Corporation. As of February 2013 it is the largest department store chain in the United States, with 1,158 locations, operating stores in every U.S. state except Hawaii. The company was founded by Polish immigrant Maxwell Kohl, who opened a corner grocery store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1927.

It became the largest department store chain in the United States in May 2012, surpassing its biggest competitor J. C. Penney. The company is listed on both the S&P 500 (since 1998) and the Fortune 500.

Scores Overview

These two companies, while often compared side by side, are close when it comes to ESG measurements but there are some key differences that put one above the other.

Overall, TJX scored a 59/100 and Kohl’s scored a 56/100. This difference is mostly highlighted in their social responsibility and governance scores but Koh’s gets beaten when it comes to their track record on human rights/supply chain as well as their leadership ethics. 

Impact on the environment

Impact on the environment relates to how a company or brand impacts the natural world around us. This could be related to the products they create, their manufacturing policies, or even their corporate response to climate change. TJX and Kohl’s  both impact the environment in a number of ways, from their manufacturing policies to the products they produce. Below are more details comparing these two companies.


Score: 61


Score: 62


Kohl’s comes in with a one point advantage over TJX, with the environment score being 62 to 61. These scores will largely have to do with their compliance with environmental regulations, energy efficient operations and development of renewable energy and alternative environmental technologies. 

Double clicking on that score difference, Kohl’s scored a 75/100 in Energy & Climate change, a 56/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 57/100 in Resource Management. On the other hand, TJX scored a 74/100 in Energy & Climate change, a 54/100 in Environment Policy & Reporting and a 58/100 in Resource Management.

Impact on social responsibility

Social responsibility includes all the things that make a company “good”. Whether that’s giving back to the community, standing up for equal rights, treating workers fairly. TJX and Kohl’s both have a number of policies around LGBTQ+ rights, community outreach, and equal pay and rights for all.


Score: 60


Score: 56


A bigger difference can be observed between both companies within the social responsibility category, where TJX scores a 60/100 and Kohl’s scores a 56/100. 

The major differences were the respective companies’ Diversity and Labor rights rankings TJX: 61 vs. Kohl’s: 55, and compensation scoring with TJX: 56 vs. Kohls: 52 score.

Quality of corporate governance

Corporate governance is much like social responsibility, but for how the company operates internally. Do they have a diverse board? Is there transparency in accounting? Are they doing what they need to do to survive and operate in an ethical and correct manner? TJX and Kohl’s both are large public companies with shareholders and boards they answer to.


Score: 57


Score: 53


Another significant difference is seen in the companies’ scoring within governance where TJX achieved a 57/100 and Kohl’s a 53/100. These scores refer to leadership structure and the values that determine corporate direction, ethics and performance.

Diving a little deeper, the board score for TJX is 59/100 while Kohl’s comes in at 57/100. Another close but distinct score category is observed within leadership & ethics where TJX scores 55/100 and Kohl’s scores 52/100 


Ethically partners with CSRHub as a primary data source, which in turn, aggregates over 700 data sources, compiling them into simple, easy to digest grades. 

TJX and Kohl’s remain some of the largest department stores, with products, policies, and actions that impact the world around them far beyond the simple brands people know them for. 

TJX scores slightly higher than Kohl’s. TJX aims to increase the energy efficiency of our operations by maximizing technologies that lower store and distribution center energy use from lighting, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. They are also working to responsibly manage the varying materials within our waste stream with a goal of sending less and less waste to landfills. Kohl’s have set goals and policies to ensure that impact is positive. Kohl’s sustainability strategy is guided by leveraging business practices and decisions that enhance the objectives of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). source  source 

If you want to stay up to date on how TJX or Kohl’s  is progressing with their scores, make sure you download Ethically. We pull data regularly to make sure our scores reflect how companies are doing today, not years ago.

As always, please check out our Methodology page for more details on how we get our ratings data.

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