REWE Group uses a range of materials in its daily business activities and it requires raw materials to do so. The efficient use of these resources is a core element of sustainable business practices.
To permanently integrate sustainability into its company processes, REWE Group has developed an all-encompassing sustainability strategy that is made up of four main sustainability pillars: Green Products; Energy, Climate and the Environment; Employees; and Social Involvement. Three areas of action have been defined for the pillar Energy, Climate and the Environment: energy efficiency, climate-relevant emissions and conservation of resources. The activities in the area of material savings is part of the area of action conservation of resources. REWE Group’s goal is to conserve natural resources wherever possible and to close material loops.
In its Guideline for Sustainable Business Practices, REWE Group has committed itself to the efficient use of the natural resources soil, air and water as well as of raw materials and fuels. As part of this effort, REWE Group optimises the use of relevant resources in its business processes and takes product- and raw-material-related steps aimed at both the upstream and downstream links in the value chain. This work includes the PRO PLANET process that addresses also resource-conservation activities (for more information, see the section PRO PLANET). Product-related measures are also being implemented in the areas of packaging, recycling materials and optimisation of material loops (for more information on packaging, see the section Packaging).
In its own business processes, REWE Group is taking steps to close material loops and conserve resources. Internal focal points include energy management, optimisation of logistics processes, the use of environmentally conscious paper and waste management.
Reusable Systems in Logistics Prevent Transport Rubbish
To reduce the amount of transport packaging rubbish, the logistics operation of REWE Group employs reusable containers. In recent years, the percentage of reusable pool boxes has been increased. It now totals 56 per cent in the area of fruit and vegetables in Germany. In addition, conventional wooden palettes are being replaced by plastic alternatives. Plastic palettes are lighter and have more capacity in terms of transportable packaging volume. This, in turn, has a positive impact on the energy efficiency of transports. The plastic palettes can also be completely recycled and are returned to the recovered substance cycle when a defect occurs.
Use of Low Aromatic Inks Improves Recycling Paper
In the intense work it has done with printers and ink producers over the years, REWE Group has worked to replace conventional inks containing mineral oil with low aromatic alternatives. The work has paid off, too: Only low aromatic inks have been used to print fliers at REWE Group since January 2016. In accomplishing this, REWE Group fulfilled the requirements of the environmental seal Blauer Engel (Blue Angel) for printed products (RAL 195). The seal called for the use of low-emission paints and ink to start in 2017. This switch, pushed by REWE Group, has led to sustainable changes in the entire industry. It prompted leading ink producers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to primarily supply low aromatic ink for heatset printing processes.
The switch by the printing companies to low aromatic ink represents a key step in efforts to use recycled paper for food packaging. Recycling paper may not be used for packaging if conventional inks containing mineral oil are used. The reason: The aromatic substances in inks containing mineral oil could be transferred to the food. This transfer is considered to be a health threat. REWE Group is working to turn the use of aromatic-free ink into a printing industry standard. This would represent a critical step in the use of recycled paper for food packaging.
Paper is a key resource for a trade and tourism company, one that plays a major role particularly in product advertising. Total paper consumption by REWE Group rose from about 180,327 tonnes in 2017 to 184,455 tonnes in 2018. Flier production is the primary cause of paper consumption. The rise is also reflected in specific paper consumption, which totalled 18.7 kilograms per square metre of sales area in 2018. The primary reason for the rise in paper consumption was increased advertising conducted as part of the competition for customers. This increase was reflected in the higher print runs of products like fliers, catalogues and company publications.
Scope: REWE Group Germany and Austria, including retailers.
To make consumption of paper, which was defined to be a significant resource, more environmentally conscious over the long term, REWE Group encourages the use of recycled paper, which is utilised in particular for fliers and other printed matter as well as in its administration work.
More Recycled Paper Reduces the Impact of Paper Consumption
In 2009, the company began to switch to more environmentally conscious paper, a key component of its sustainability strategy. This effort focuses on using recycled paper (with or without the German environmental seal Blauer Engel (Blue Angel)) and paper from sustainable forestry that has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC™).
The share of more environmentally conscious paper in total consumption at REWE Group is nearly 100 per cent. The share of recycled paper among more environmentally conscious paper exceeded 97 per cent in 2018. For the remaining nearly 3 per cent, virgin fibre paper from sustainable forestry that has been certified by the FSC® or PEFC™ is used.