UNFI’s Climate Goals Set Strong Precedent

Company among 1st North American wholesale grocery distributors to adopt emissions reduction goals validated by Science Based Targets initiative
Marian Zboraj
Digital Editor
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The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has validated United Natural Foods Inc.’s (UNFI) science-based emissions reduction targets covering the companys operations and value chain.

UNFI’s emissions reduction targets approved by the SBTi are consistent with levels required to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. The three validated targets below are based on a fiscal 2020 emissions base year and fiscal 2030 emissions target year.

Operations Targets

  1. Reduce scope 1 and 3 heavy freight well-to-wheel greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation by 38% on an intensity basis.
  2. Reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 greenhouse-gas emissions from all other emission sources by 50%.

Value Chain Target

  3. Reduce absolute scope 3 greenhouse-gas emissions from purchased goods and services by 25%.

“Climate change continues to pose a serious threat to our planet, and UNFI is committed to taking bold action on environmental issues and investing in opportunities to reduce our emissions,” said UNFI CEO Sandy Douglas. “Through adoption and pursuit of these science-based targets, UNFI is proud to help lead the North American wholesale and grocery distribution industry, and humbly recognizes the critical importance of coordinated and rapid decarbonization.”

UNFI’s fleet of more than 2,000 owned and leased trucks makes 1.37 million deliveries to 30,000-plus customer locations each year. These deliveries are facilitated through UNFI’s 56 distribution centers representing approximately 30 million square feet of warehouse space. Together, distribution centers, retail, fleet and all refrigerant emissions account for fewer than than 5% of the company’s total scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions.

Meanwhile, UNFI purchases nearly 300,000 products from more than 12,000 suppliers and growers, which account for around 90% of total scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. To promote reductions, UNFI created the Climate Action Hub to provide tools and resources, including opportunities for suppliers and vendors to learn from experts and each other as a way to innovate and scale climate solutions across the food system. Hub visitors will find resources such as a Climate Action Guide that provides tips on how to advance their own emissions reduction work.

“We are excited to take the next step in our emissions reduction journey by having our targets validated by SBTi, but we know we can’t accomplish these goals alone,” said Alisha Real, UNFI’s director of sustainability and social impact. “We take the need for business accountability in solving this global challenge seriously and look forward to engaging our value chain in these important efforts.”

“UNFI’s commitment to reducing their emissions, including their scope 3 emissions, sets a strong precedent in the food industry,” added Courtney Pineau, executive director at  The Climate Collaborative, which is based in Montpelier, Vt. “By working in collaboration throughout their network of suppliers, UNFI is helping to activate and support much-needed climate action.”

A core element of UNFI’s 2030 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) agenda, Better for All, is a commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and waste, and make progress on other key ESG priorities. UNFI shared this progress on its ESG goals in March with the release of the “2021 Better for All” report.

Providence, R.I.-based UNFI delivers a wide variety of products to customer locations throughout North America, including natural product superstores, independent retailers, conventional supermarket chains, e-commerce retailers and foodservice customers. The largest publicly traded grocery distributor in America, the company is No. 49 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocers 2022 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.

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