More Sustainability Coverage
Fifteen years ago, Progressive Grocer published its first-ever “green” issue, with the cover headline “Green is the New Black.” At that time (early 2007), sustainability was just becoming a mainstream trend in U.S. business as companies were beginning to recognize that it behooved them to invest in more earth-friendly practices and products to ensure a healthier environment, keep their shareholders happy and, especially, to reach consumers who were supporting these noble ideas with their wallets.
Fast-forward to 2022, and the grocery industry has started to rack up some rather impressive achievements while setting some major commitments related to sustainability. Of course, the industry has been gradually pulled along by government regulations that place more emphasis on climate change, but a growing number of retailers have recognized that what’s good for the environment is often good for business, too.
Led by large mass-market retailers like Walmart and Target, which often have to answer to their concerned shareholders — as well as smaller chains with more environmentally progressive European connections, like Aldi and the regional U.S. banners belonging to Ahold Delhaize — a number of grocers have taken some major steps in areas such as energy efficiency, waste from packaging and surplus food, sourcing, and transportation and shipping. They are essentially in the process of creating more sustainable, less wasteful supply chains from farm to fork, even getting their suppliers on board.
Counting carbs (no, not those carbs, but carbon dioxide, or CO2, being the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities) seems to be a good place to start as retailers plot out their sustainability journeys. This requires not only taking a close internal look at what kind of GHG emissions a company is responsible for, but also seeking outside help to consult and give oversight.
According to the McKinsey article, two terms are most commonly used by companies when measuring carbon emissions: “carbon neutrality,” which is commonly used to refer only to CO2 and is often associated with the practice of offsetting emissions rather than reducing them, and “net zero,” which essentially refers to all GHG emissions and entails a focus on rapid, real emission cuts. The latter requires companies to set quantified targets, including for indirect emissions across their entire value chains.
Perhaps not surprisingly, Albertsons and other large publicly owned grocery chains like Ahold Delhaize, Target and Walmart have set goals to reach net-zero emissions, most of them by 2040.
Other chains are looking at reducing CO2 as a more realistic starting point.