REWE Group is a trade and tourism company whose business operations have a broad impact on biodiversity. In addition to direct effects at the company’s business locations and regarding 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.
To permanently integrate sustainability into its company processes, REWE Group has developed an all-encompassing sustainability strategy that is made up of four main pillars: Green Products; Energy, Climate and the Environment; Employees; and Social Involvement. The Green Products Strategy 2030 was adopted in 2017 in a move to more strongly anchor sustainability within procurement processes. In the action areas of ethical business practices, animal welfare and conservation of resources, the trade and tourism company designs effective measures to reduce environmental and social impacts as part of the Green Products commitment. Biodiversity has been defined as a focus topic within the area of action of conservation of resources. The trading company’s goals are to conserve natural resources and protect and promote biodiversity along its supply chains.
In the Guideline for Sustainable Business Practises, REWE Group has made a firm commitment to preserving and protecting natural ecosystems. The company 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.
Maintaining biodiversity is an important criterion used to design more sustainable product ranges. 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 the 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. This allows identifying negative impacts on biodiversity and measures to be taken for preserving and promoting biodiversity (for more details see the section PRO PLANET).
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 its strategic partners: German environmental organisation NABU, the Lake Constance Foundation and several cultural landscape foundation partners.
To promote biodiversity, the REWE Group has adopted as its objective to have all of its regional outdoor fruit and vegetable produce come from biodiversity-enhancing farming by 2025.
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.
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.
Based on the positive results, the Tropical Project was expanded to other banana-growing areas, for example Costa Rica. Over 3.5 million euros were provided for this effort by the REWE Group Central America Fund – aka the Banana Fund – between 2013 and 2018. The fund is designed for local organisations whose project ideas compete to win 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, Greenyard, 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.
To heighten transparency in supply chains, REWE Group is introducing a QR code for REWE store brand bananas that allows customers to trace bananas back to the producer.
Poorly conceived structures and the use of pesticides on farmland have caused a sharp decline in the population of flying insects over the last few decades. Thus, in mid-2018, REWE contributed 300,000 euros to an Insect Protection Fund formed by the company’s long-standing strategic partner NABU. The funds will make possible the nationwide implementation of broad insect protection measures to counteract the dramatic decline in insect populations over a twelve-month period.
The Insect Protection Fund is helping buy land which is to be developed and secured as a species-rich habitat for insects over the long term. In 2018 a total of 166,134 square metres of land were acquired. For example, 76,084 square metres of conventionally farmed land were purchased and farming there was ceased in order to implement development measures for insect diversity. Forest areas, water bodies and open land were also acquired and placed under protection.
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. In 2018 more than 130 farms participated in the FLORA programme aimed at supporting farmers and organisations in order to preserve biodiversity. As a result, 570 hectares of ecologically valuable land were preserved.
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.
In addition, the sale of pesticides that are particularly harmful to bees and their use in the production of the plant assortment of toom Baumarkt DIY stores was also restricted. In order to actively contribute to protection of bees and the environment, toom Baumarkt DIY stores have tightened requirements for their ornamental plant suppliers, and in 2017 became the first DIY store chain in Germany to begin exclusively selling ornamental plants produced without the use of these 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.
In addition to protecting insects by eliminating usage of specific active agents and pesticides, toom Baumarkt stores have been continuously expanding their range of bee-friendly plants since 2016. In 2018 nearly 200 plant products were offered under the slogan Bee Friends, offering vast amounts of nectar and pollen for insects.
Pesticide Blacklist for Conventionally Farmed Fruit and Vegetables
For information on pesticide use in conventional fruit and vegetable farming, see the section Environmental Issues in the Supply Chain.