REWE Group Sustainability Report 2020

Biodiversity

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 areas of action of people, animals and the environment, the trade and tourism company develops effective measures to reduce environmental and social impacts as part of the Green Products commitment. In the action area of the environment, biodiversity was defined as one of the focus issues. The trading company’s goals are to conserve natural resources and protect and promote biodiversity along its supply chains.

GRI 304: Biodiversity

Management Approach

In the Guideline on sustainable business practices 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 the 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 organic, Fairtrade, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), Rainforest Alliance / UTZ and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). They are also used in the Guidelines the REWE Group has drawn up for raw materials such as palm oil, fish and cocoa. Impacts on biodiversity are also examined during product-related analyses conducted within the scope of the procurement process of the PRO PLANET labels. This allows identification of negative impacts on biodiversity and measures to be taken for preserving and promoting biodiversity (for more details see PRO PLANET).

REWE Group works in alliances to advance biodiversity. The company promotes regional projects that address biodiversity in agriculture with numerous farmers and its partners, such as German environmental organisation NABU, the Lake Constance Foundation and several cultural landscape foundations.

To promote biodiversity, the REWE Group has set itself the goal to change all relevant regional outdoor fruit and vegetable produce to biodiversity-enhancing farming by 2025.

Food for biodiversity: alliance to protect biodiversity

In March 2021, REWE Group together with other companies, associations and certification organisations from the food industry as well as environmental associations and representatives from science, founded the association “Food for Biodiversity”. This first industry-wide alliance champions protection of biodiversity as a key issue in the food industry and in the upstream value chains. The members want to make a contribution towards achieving the goals of the German and European biodiversity strategy, the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

GRI 304-2:

Significant impacts of activities, products, and services on biodiversity

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.

Conservation and agriculture: hand in hand for more biodiversity

The aim of the PRO PLANET project is to increase biodiversity in conventional fruit and vegetable farms by encouraging a good level of cooperation between farmers and conservationists. In addition to the many participating farmers, the Lake Constance Foundation, NABU and various cultural landscape foundations are important partners of REWE Group when it comes to implementing individual measures to protect biodiversity. When the project was launched in 2010, the focus was on apple and pear orchards. After the success of the pilot runs, in 2016, the project was extended to cover various fruit and vegetable crops. More than 530 fruit and vegetables orchards have now joined the project (at the end of 2020). Apart from apple and pears, the products include broccoli, Chinese cabbage, iceberg lettuce, cos lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onions, cherries, plums and blueberries. The fruit and vegetables receive the PRO PLANET label with the addition “contributing to the protection of biodiversity”.

The project is having a broad range of positive effects: Since 2010, a total of 24,900 bushes, trees and shrubs have been planted throughout Germany (2019: 14,300). Around 842 hectares (2019: 612 hectares) of flower strips were planted and upgraded and various forms of structural enhancements such as dry-stone walls and small bodies of water have been added. In addition, since 2010, approximately 11,745 (2019: 10,130) nesting boxes and nesting aids for birds and bats and 5,698 insect nesting aids (2019: 4,722) were installed. REWE Group regularly monitors the success of the implemented actions. A wild-bee monitoring programme initiated in 2017 in the Lake Constance region found that various bee species had grown significantly. Compared with 2010, the species had increased by about 100 per cent from 56 to 117, including 25 (2010: 5) endangered species. In 2019, a wild-bee monitoring programme was also carried out in southern Rhineland. As a result of this it was discovered that more individual wild bees were present in ideal flowering areas with a high density of flowers in peaceful locations than in areas where no measures had been carried out. Nesting possibilities in the soil had a positive effect on the number of species. As a result, it can be said that flowering areas have a positive effect on wild bee colonies, assuming these areas are undisturbed, well developed and have a high flower density. REWE Group intends to expand its monitoring activities to review this success. For instance, wild-bee monitoring will likely be carried out in 2021.

In 2020, the project was included in the retail guidelines for protecting pollinators in the European Union. In 2019, it received the European Bee Award and in the same year was one of the United Nations Decade on Biodiversity projects. The project was also awarded the German CSR Prize in 2016.

Biodiversity on apple farms: for the love of bees

REWE Group campaigns for more biodiversity together with the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP) and farmers in the Grójec region: On the apple farms in the largest apple-growing region in Poland, the measures include planting flower strips as a source of food for insects as well as building insect hotels and bird houses. The apples purchased from the growers are handled separately and used to produce REWE Beste Wahl apple juice and PENNY Paradiso apple juice “For the Love of Bees”, which bear the PRO PLANET label and are available seasonally.

Insect protection fund with the NABU to promote biodiversity in agriculture

Various research studies come to the conclusion that the population of flying insects has declined sharply during the past few decades. Because of this, REWE supported the establishment of an Insect Protection Fund by its long-term strategic partner NABU in 2018 and 2019 to the sum of 300,000 euros. This funding made possible the nationwide implementation of broad insect protection measures to counteract the dramatic decline in insect populations.
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. A total of 164,800 square metres of land were purchased. For instance, 25,000 square metres of conventionally farmed land was bought and farming was stopped so that development measures for insect diversity could be implemented. Various actions to monitor insects were also implemented, flowering areas were planted and land owners and leaseholders were given advice on insect propagation.

Promoting domestic species diversity through the environmental protection programme “Blooming Austria”

The “Blooming Austria” foundation was established in 2015 by REWE Group in Austria together with the nature conservation organisation BirdLife Austria. The foundation mandate involves strategic, transparent and systematic funding of nature conservation projects. “Blooming Austria” especially supports regional cooperation with projects being implemented in collaboration with partners from public institutions, charitable organisations and the private economy. The foundation’s financing and project activities have been linked to certain products: Part of the revenue from every product sold from 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) goes to the foundation. These days, the foundation is not only the first but also the largest private initiative for a healthy environment and sustainable farming ion Austria. In 2020, the foundation budget was 1.4 million euros.

The foundation's nature conservation strategy for 2018–2022 entitled “Anchoring sustainability, enlivening Austria’s diversity” aims to protect a total of 1,000 hectares of threatened natural areas by 2022. In 2020, 132 farms participated in the FLORA programme aimed at supporting farmers and organisations in order to preserve biodiversity. As a result, 621 hectares or environmentally valuable area will be maintained for a premium payment of just under 290.000 euros. The financial support also gives the small structured farming families a planning perspective and secures jobs.

REWE, PENNY and toom Baumarkt DIY stores change over to peat-free potting soils

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. In 2020, the store brand range of peat-free soils consisted of ten products, seven of them are Naturtalent by toom® potting soils and three are products of the toom quality brand. Naturtalent by toom® potting soils bear the PRO PLANET label and the Bio-Grünstempel® organic seal. 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 are fighting climate change and fostering biodiversity. The REWE and PENNY sales lines have also added peat-free and peat-reduced alternatives to their seasonal range of soils.

Systematic reduction of pesticides and elimination of glyphosate at toom Baumarkt DIY stores

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. Because of the risk to humans and the environment, toom Baumarkt DIY stores stopped selling products containing glyphosate in 2015; it was the first chain of DIY stores in Germany to do this.

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 the protection of bees and the environment, toom Baumarkt DIY stores have tightened requirements for their ornamental plant suppliers. In 2017 it became the first DIY store chain in Germany to exclusively offer ornamental plants produced without the use of pesticides classified as particularly harmful to bees by Greenpeace. In the area of chemical pesticides, in 2015 toom completely stopped selling products which, according to a Greenpeace study, contain active ingredients that are especially 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. An entomologist evaluates all relevant products with regard to bee friendliness. At the end of 2020, almost 1,000 products had been assessed bee friendly, including flower bulbs, herbs and fruit trees, and thus bear the claim “Bee Friends”.

Pesticide blacklist for conventionally farmed fruit and vegetables
REWE Group has set the goal of continuously reducing the amount of pesticides used in the conventional cultivation of fruit and vegetables. In this effort, the company works with producers, NGOs and scientific experts to develop solutions that have the lowest-possible impact on the environment and assure production and yield certainty for farmers. REWE Group has drawn up a blacklist of substances which farmers are prohibited from using. For more information about the use of pesticides in conventional fruit and vegetables, see Environmental Aspects in the Supply Chain.

Further topics in this area:

Product-Related Risk Analyses

GRI 102-11

Regional Products

GRI 204-1

Raw Materials in Focus – Food

GRI FP1

Raw Materials in Focus – Non-food

GRI FP1

Organic

GRI FP2

PRO PLANET

GRI FP2

Packaging

GRI 301

Water

GRI 303

Climate Protection in the Supply Chain

GRI 305

Environmental Aspects
in the Supply Chain

GRI 308

Social Aspects in the Supply Chain

GRI 412, 414

Women in the Supply Chain

GRI 414

Living Wages and Income

GRI 414

Customer Health and
Product Safety

GRI 416

Promoting Sustainable Consumption

GRI 417

Animal Welfare

FP10

Child Labour and
Forced Labour

GRI 408, 409

Nutrition

FP10