Spreading the Word About Sustainability
PRO PLANET represents one major goal of REWE Group: to make conventional products in the mass market more sustainable and to promote sustainable consumption among the general public. As part of its broad Green Products strategy, the company has devised the PRO PLANET process: With the PRO PLANET label, REWE Group provides its customers with a comprehensible and transparent guide to more sustainable products. And it promotes more sustainability in production and processing through specific PRO PLANET projects.
The PRO PLANET Process for More Sustainable Products
REWE Group's PRO PLANET label identifies the company's store brands whose production and application processes take environmental and/or social factors into consideration. The number of PRO PLANET products in Germany rose from 407 in 2012 to 622 in 2014. In Austria, the total climbed from 119 in 2012 to 251 in 2014. The label is used for a large number of foods, including fish, fruit and vegetables, as well as non-food products like textiles, roses and paint. In 2014, around 710 million customer contacts were recorded in Germany and Austria, a figure that slightly exceeds the target of 700 million customer contacts set in the Sustainability Report 2011/2012.
"Promoting sustainable consumption is one of the most important challenges we face today. REWE Group points the way with its PRO PLANET label."
Bernward Geier, Chairman of the PRO PLANET Board of Advisers
To qualify for the PRO PLANET label, a product is subjected to a multi-stage process overseen by an independent board of advisers (see PRO PLANET) The PRO PLANET Board of Advisers was created in 2010. Its members hold two-day meetings six times a year, share their expertise and approve the awarding of the PRO PLANET label to products.
During the entire approval process, REWE Group also asks partners in academic and government institutions, NGOs and trade associations to provide project-specific expertise. In the first stage of the process, key social and environmental sustainability impacts – or hot spots – extending throughout the entire value chain are identified and evaluated. In the following stage, specific ways to diminish or eliminate the hot spots are developed.
This approach ensures that the PRO PLANET label represents effective improvements that will have a real impact on sustainability. The PRO PLANET Board of Advisers will approve the assignment of the label only if a product's sustainability features were improved by such a project. A review is conducted three years later. In this process, the product is evaluated once again, and a determination is then made about the product's eligibility to use the label for the next three years. The sustainability aspect on the label represents the type of improvement. Through the use of a code number, more information can be found on www.proplanet-label.com.
The PRO PLANET Process for Eggs
During the PRO PLANET process for store brand eggs, two key hot spots were identified and the appropriate steps were then taken:
- First, egg-producing farms must stop using genetically modified feed. Because the feed frequently comes from soy obtained from overseas sources, farms are also required to reduce the amount of such soy during a multi-phase process. The project also has a positive impact on European farmers because more and more European protein feed (preferably legumes) is being used.
- Second, PRO PLANET egg suppliers have pledged on an individual farm basis to increase the number of non-debeaked flocks. As a result, steps designed to improve animal welfare in these flocks could be developed. But operating an egg farm with non-debeaked laying hens requires significant changes to be made. Realising this, REWE Group worked with the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences to develop a train-the-trainer programme. In this programme, farm foremen, farm managers and other key individuals delve into issues related to operating farms with non-debeaked laying hens. In September 2014, a test facility with 46,000 non-debeaked animals was set up. Employees of the Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover are working to determine how farming conditions for these hens can be modified to prevent or diminish abnormal behaviour like feather pecking and cannibalism (see PRO PLANET).
PRO PLANET Sets the Pace of Industry Initiatives
To have the widest possible impact, REWE Group conducts other activities that extend beyond the PRO PLANET framework. This work includes the development of guidelines covering all product groups that apply to critical raw materials and the company's role in industry initiatives.
On occasion, PRO PLANET projects form the basis for further activities. In June 2013, the "Guideline for Soy in Animal Feed" was issued on the basis of projects involving the preparation of processed animal products (eggs, milk, meat). It calls for suppliers of store brands to stop using genetically modified feed and promotes the use of European protein feed. As a result, a project requirement has been turned into an overarching goal for store brand suppliers.
The aspirations of REWE Group extend far beyond the area of store brand products. To initiate fundamental changes in animal husbandry practices, REWE Group assumed a leading position in the development of the "Animal Welfare Initiative" during the reporting period. As a charter member, REWE Group began on 1 January 2015 to pay four cents per sold kilogram of pork into a fund that provides financial support to every farmer who voluntarily implements the appropriate measures. The initiative is scheduled to be extended to poultry in the autumn of 2015.
Industry Initiatives for Cocoa and Palm Oil
In a similar manner, industry initiatives on more sustainable palm oil and certified cocoa that REWE Group has helped to inaugurate grew out of PRO PLANET activities. REWE Group is an initiative partner in both the Forum for Sustainable Palm Oil and the German Initiative on Sustainable Cocoa. Both initiatives are dedicated to completely transforming the sector. As a result, guidelines for store brands can be developed from the PRO PLANET process and momentum for industry-wide solutions can be generated.
Fine-Tuning the Strategic Approach
One lesson has been learned in recent years: Product ranges can become more sustainable if complementary steps in the affected supply chains are implemented as they are in PRO PLANET. These efforts must be designed to reduce or, ideally, eliminate major hot spots. An important element is the targeted and selective choice of suppliers who comply with the principles laid down in REWE Group's "Guideline for Sustainable Business Practices ". As part of this selection process, REWE Group has developed a questionnaire tool designed to individually evaluate suppliers in terms of their sustainability initiatives and their socio-environmental expertise. The development work was completed at the end of 2014. Once a pilot phase has been conducted, use of the supplier questionnaire tool is expected to begin in 2015.