REWE Group is a trade and tourism company whose business operations have a broad impact on biodiversity. In addition to direct effects on the company’s business locations and the transport of goods, the key areas are primarily the upstream and downstream stages of the value chain. The impact here is created by the non-sustainable use of natural ecosystems in such areas as the mining of natural resources, the manufacture of products and activities for tourists.
In the Guideline for Sustainable Business Practises, REWE Group has made a firm commitment to preserving and protecting natural ecosystems. It has also endorsed the objectives of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In addition, as part of the Biodiversity in Good Company initiative, REWE Group has pledged to integrate protection and sustainable use of biodiversity in to the company’s sustainability management. The development of a biodiversity guideline has started for the purpose of establishing a holistic biodiversity management system in the entire company. The importance of protecting natural resources and preserving biodiversity along supply chains was reaffirmed in the “Strategy Green Products 2030” newly developed in 2017 for PENNY and REWE in Germany. Biodiversity has also been defined as a focus issue within the area of action “conservation of resources” (for more information, see the overarching Management Approach Green Products).
Maintaining biodiversity is an important criterion used to design more sustainable product ranges. This is particularly the case for store brands. The reason: REWE Group has the most leverage to bring about change here. Biodiversity criteria can be addressed through systems of standards like Bio, Fairtrade, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), UTZ, the Rainforest Alliance and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). They are also used in the guidelines that REWE Group has drawn up for such raw materials as palm oil, fish and cocoa. Impacts on biodiversity are examined as well during product-related hot spot analysis conducted in the PRO PLANET programme. As a result, negative impacts can be identified and steps taken to reduce or eliminate them (for a detailed description of these instruments, see GRI 204: Procurement Practices).
REWE Group works in alliances to advance biodiversity with the help of partners. The company promotes projects that address biodiversity in agriculture with the help of a strategic partner, the German environmental organisation NABU. This collaborative work includes the PRO PLANET apple project that aims to increase the biodiversity of apple orchards.
REWE Group’s store-brand production is the area where the company has its greatest opportunity to protect biodiversity. The following projects illustrate the focal points of the company’s activities during the reporting period. Progress and impacts are evaluated on a project basis and described within the context of the projects being presented.
This project is being conducted jointly with the German environmental organisation NABU. Its goal is to increase the biodiversity of apple orchards by forming an alliance between farmers and the environmental protection. Since the project was launched in 2010, the number of participating apple farmers has increased to well over 250. The project has been successfully conducted for several years now. In 2016, it won the German CSR Award in the category of Model Collaboration Between a Company and NGOs/NPOs.
The project is having a broad range of positive effects: Since 2010, a total of 5,560 (2017: 810) bushes, trees and shrubs have been planted throughout Germany, and 637 (2017: 324) old fruit trees have been preserved. Nearly 300 hectares (2017: 95 hectares) of flowering strips and wide-ranging forms of structural enhancements like dry stone walls and small bodies of water were added. Another focus of this work is bees. A wild-bee monitoring programme conducted in 2017 found that the variety of bees had grown significantly in orchards. Compared with 2010, the variety had increased by about 100 per cent from 56 to 117 species of wild bees, including 25 endangered species (2010: five). In addition, since 2010, around 8,960 (2017: 1,919) nesting boxes and nesting aids have been set up for birds, bats and insects. The wide range of nesting boxes and nesting aids as well as species-protection measures are having the desired effect. For example, in 2017, a record number of 22 (2016: 16) kestrel breeding pairs were counted in the southern Rhineland region.
In 2015, the measures were monitored by the University of Bonn. The measures were evaluated in a point-based system that weighed their suitability for promoting biodiversity. In 2016 and 2017, pilot projects in vegetable and potato farming were planned and conducted on the basis of evaluations of the measures of the apple project. The objective is to integrate additional cultures into biodiversity projects. The projects are to be rolled out in 2018. During the rollout, cultures of broccoli, Chinese cabbage, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce and carrots as well as potatoes will be processed throughout Germany with suppliers and producers.
Since 2008, REWE Group has been striving to improve the environmental and social conditions of banana farming in Central America. Working with the banana producer Chiquita and the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ), REWE Group conducted the Tropical Project in banana-growing regions of Panama from 2009 to 2013. In addition to environmental protection measures, the project focused on winning the support of the local population. Thanks to environmental training and improved economic outlooks, members of the local population were taught to use valuable ecosystems more carefully and to maintain biodiversity over the long term. The project’s volume totalled 1.2 million euros.
It included a sub-project for protecting sea turtles, which was implemented in the Amistad Biosphere Reserve national park in the province of Bocas del Toro. Just a few years ago, the turtles’ brood was under siege. Their eggs were considered a delicacy, and they served as a major source of income for many people. In addition to reforestation and land restoration of a 120-hectare meadow area, project members have developed a far-reaching environmental training programme: 246 volunteers from a number of different backgrounds cleaned beaches and created a protective enclosure for sea turtles and their eggs. As a result, more than 27,000 sea turtles were born in safety between 2009 and 2013.
Based on the positive results, the Tropical Project was expanded to other banana-growing areas, for example Costa Rica. Almost two million euros were provided for this effort by the REWE Group Central America Fund – or banana fund – from 2013 to 2017. The fund is designed for local organisations whose project ideas compete to win the financial support. The GIZ coordinates the project applications and monitors local project implementation. The funding is approved by a board of trustees on which representatives of Chiquita, Dole, Fyﬀes, Caritas and REWE Group serve.
The measures are complemented by strict production requirements. All farms that grow bananas to be sold by the sales lines of REWE Group in Germany must be certified by the Rainforest Alliance or according to Bio guidelines to ensure that social standards are followed and to keep negative environmental impacts to a minimum. The bananas of the store brand “REWE Beste Wahl” also have been awarded the PRO PLANET label of REWE Group. This means that they also meet sustainability criteria that exceed the basic requirements of the Rainforest Alliance.
In 2014, REWE International AG began to work in a project called “Blühendes Österreich” (Blooming Austria), cooperating with the nature protection organisation BirdLife Österreich to create environmental habitats. The initiative provides funding for use in preserving and maintaining endangered natural areas and extensive agricultural sites as well as projects for environmental and sustainability training, thus promoting domestic biodiversity.
In 2015, REWE International AG converted the initiative into a charitable private foundation. As an independent organisation with its own staff and clearly regulated financing, the foundation represents a long-term commitment and credibility to customers. The foundation’s financing and project activities have been linked to certain products. It receives one cent from every sold product in the store brands “Da komm ich her” (I’m from Here) (available at BILLA, MERKUR, ADEG and AGM), “immer grün” (always green) (MERKUR), bi good (BIPA) and “Ich bin Österreich” (I Am Austria) (PENNY). As a result, customers of the trade companies are actively integrated into project support. In addition, conscious buying decisions are encouraged. The foundation’s budget totals about one million euros.
In 2017, the foundation’s environmental protection strategy for 2018–2022 titled “Anchoring Sustainability: Living Austria’s Diversity” was finalised. The aim is to protect a total of 1,000 hectares of endangered environmental areas by 2022. By the end of 2017, a total of 325 hectares were maintained, and about 150,000 euros in premiums were paid to the 113 participating farms.
To harvest peat, centuries-old moors were and are drained. The process destroys the habitat of animals and plants. It also releases the carbon trapped in the moors as climate-killing CO2. For this reason, in 2016 toom Baumarkt DIY stores became the first German DIY store chain to decide to convert its entire line of soils, both store brands and branded products, to peat-free alternatives by no later than 2025. By spring 2016, the store-brand assortment of peat-free soils had been expanded to five products. The peat-free soil bears the PRO PLANET label and the organic seal Bio-Grünstempel®. In addition to expanding the number of peat-free products, toom Baumarkt DIY stores will gradually increase the amount of peat-replacement materials from renewable resources in all soils they sell. In taking these steps, toom Baumarkt DIY stores is fighting climate change and fostering biodiversity. The REWE and PENNY sales lines have also added peat-free and peat-reduced alternatives to their season range of soils.
Glyphosate, the most widely used pesticide in farming around the world, is the target of continuous criticism. A widely read study done by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) concluded in 2015 that glyphosate was probably carcinogenic to humans. The improper use of the pesticide can also pose a threat to the environment, particularly for bodies of water and the organisms that live in them.
In light of this risk to humans and the environment, toom Baumarkt DIY stores became Germany’s first DIY store chain in 2015 to drop products containing glyphosate from its product range. The company took this decision even though it was generating annual revenue of 2.1 million euros (2014) with this pesticide. By the end of 2013, toom Baumarkt DIY stores had removed about 60 per cent of products containing glyphosate from its assortment.
In addition, the sale of pesticides that are particularly harmful to bees and their use in the production of the toom plant assortment was also restricted. In order to actively contribute to protection of bees and the environment, toom has tightened requirements for its ornamental plant suppliers and, in 2017, was the first DIY store in Germany to begin offering only ornamental plants that have been produced without using pesticides classified as particularly harmful to bees by Greenpeace. This is also reflected in the area of chemical pesticides. Since 2015, toom has completely stopped selling products that contain substances which, according to a Greenpeace study, are particularly harmful to bees.