Up to one million species of animals and plants are threatened with extinction. This loss also poses a threat to people's livelihood in the long term. This is because the processes of nature control the quality of fresh water, air and soil, regulate the climate, ensure pollination and pest control, and reduce the impacts of environmental catastrophes. As a trade and tourism company, the business activities of the REWE Group have diverse impacts on biological diversity. In addition to direct impacts, for example at company sites or during the transport of goods, the upstream and downstream links in the value chain are also of particular significance. Impacts arise here through the unsustainable use of natural ecosystems – for example, when obtaining raw materials, in the production of goods, or due to tourism offerings.
Biodiversity has been defined as a focus issue within the Green Products Strategy 2030. It belongs to the area of action of the environment. The REWE Group's goal is to preserve natural resources as well as protect and promote biodiversity along the supply chains.
GRI 304: Biodiversity
In the Guidelines on Sustainable Business Practices, the 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, the REWE Group has pledged to integrate the protection and promotion of biological diversity into the company’s sustainability management.
In order to protect and promote biodiversity, the REWE Group is making its product ranges more sustainable and, for this purpose, is taking biodiversity criteria into consideration
- through standards systems such as the organic label/logo, Fairtrade, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®), the Rainforest Alliance and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
- within its Guidelines for Raw Materials such as palm oil, fish or cocoa
- during product-related analyses as part of the process for awarding the PRO PLANET label, in which negative impacts on biodiversity are identified and measures for preservation and promotion are taken (for more information in this regard, see PRO PLANET).
The REWE Group also relies on cooperations. Working together with numerous farmers and its partners NABU, Stiftung Rheinische Kulturlandschaft and its sister foundations, and other environmental protection organisations, the company supports regional projects which promote biological diversity in agricultural practices.
In March 2021, the REWE Group also founded the organisation “Food for Biodiversity” together with representatives of companies, associations and certification organisations from the food industry as well as environmental and research groups. The members of this first industry-wide alliance pledge to implement measures which anchor the protection of biological diversity in the food industry and its upstream value chains. This is intended to help achieve the goals of the German and European biodiversity strategy, the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
As part of the Central America Fund (see Raw Materials in Focus – Food), measures for the protection and promotion of biodiversity are also being implemented in a targeted manner, for example through a reforestation or turtle protection project in banana-growing regions in Central America.
- Switchover of all relevant regional, outdoor-grown fruit and vegetable products in private labels to cultivation which promotes biodiversity by 2025.
- Switchover to peat-free soils for private label and brand products by 2025 in order to protect peat bogs as important carbon dioxide stores.
GRI 304-2: Significant impacts of activities, products and services on biodiversity
Projects for the preservation and promotion of biodiversity
The REWE Group's biggest opportunities to make an impact in terms of protecting biodiversity lie in the area of private label products. The following projects highlight the focal points of the Group's commitments during the reporting period. Progress and impacts are evaluated on a project basis and reported within the framework of the projects presented.
PRO PLANET biodiversity project
The goal of the PRO PLANET project is to increase biological diversity at conventional fruit and vegetable farms through effective cooperation between farmers and environmentalists. In addition to the many farmers involved in the project, environmental protection organisations such as NABU and Stiftung Rheinische Kulturlandschaft and its sister foundations are also important partners of the REWE Group, who implement individual measures on site to protect and promote biodiversity. When the project began in 2010, the focus was initially on apple and pear orchards. Since 2016, following successful pilot tests, the project has been expanded to include various fruit and vegetable crops. The number of fruit and vegetable farms taking part has now grown to over 540 (as of the end of 2021). In addition to apples and pears, products also include broccoli, Chinese cabbage, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, carrots, potatoes, onions, cherries, plums and blueberries. The fruit and vegetables receive the PRO PLANET label with the tagline “Für mehr Artenvielfalt” (For more biodiversity).
The positive impacts of the project are manifold. Numerous measures have been implemented throughout Germany since 2010. These include:
- The planting of some 26,000 bushes, trees and shrubs.
- The creation and upgrade of around 888 hectares of flowering strips as well as the construction of various forms of structural enhancement such as dry stone walls or small bodies of water.
- The setting up of over 13,300 nesting boxes and nesting aids for birds and bats as well as more than 6,500 insect nesting aids.
In order to make the key figures and project goals more tangible, the following objectives to be achieved by 2025 were set as part of the project:
- The creation and upgrade of 9 million square metres of flowered areas
- The planting of 30,000 woody plants (trees, hedges and shrubs)
- The setting up of 20,000 nesting aids for insects and birds
The REWE Group carries out regular monitoring to check the success of the measures implemented. This is demonstrated, for example, in the results of the wild bee monitoring carried out in the farming region of Lake Constance in 2021: There, wild bee diversity has settled at a very high level. Overall, more species of wild bee (2021: 112; 2010: 56) and also more endangered species of wild bee (2021: 26; 2010: 5) were found in the flowered areas being studied compared with at the start of the project. In addition, the biodiversity of the individual areas being studied has increased. This proves that the ecosystems in the various areas have also stabilised and become more robust.
Wild bee monitoring was carried out in the south of Rhineland-Palatinate in 2019. Here too, more individual wild bees appeared on ideal flowered areas with a high bloom density and an undisturbed location than on areas where no measures have been taken. Nesting opportunities in the soil had a positive effect on the number of species. This confirms that flowering areas have a positive effect on wild bee communities – as long as the areas are undisturbed, well developed and have a high bloom density. The REWE Group aims to continue its monitoring activities to check the success of measures. Consequently, the next wild bee monitoring is likely to take place in 2025.
In 2020, the PRO PLANET biodiversity project was included in the European Union's guide to protecting pollinators for the retail industry. In 2019, it received the European Bee Award and, that same year, it was one of the projects included in the UN Decade on Biodiversity. In addition, it already received the German CSR Award in 2016.
PRO PLANET apple project in Poland
Together with the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP) and farmers in the region of Grójec, the REWE Group has been campaigning for more biodiversity since 2020: measures being taken at the orchards in the largest growing region for apples in Poland include the creation of flowering strips as a source of food for insects as well as the setting up of insect hotels and bird houses. The apples from this project are handled separately and used to produce the REWE Beste Wahl apple juice “Aus Liebe zur Biene” (For the love of bees) which has been awarded the PRO PLANET label and is available seasonally.
Insect protection fund with NABU
According to research, the amount of flying insects has decreased significantly during the past decade. Therefore, in 2018 and 2019, the REWE Group lent its support to an insect protection fund set up by its long-standing strategic partner NABU, initially with a sum of over 300,000 euros in total. This money enabled comprehensive measures for the protection of insects to be implemented nationwide and therefore helped to counteract the decline in the number of insects. These measures include the purchase of areas of land to be developed and secured in the long term as species-rich habitats. There have been over 50 projects so far. 171,093 square metres, including arable land, have been made insect-friendly. In addition, 373,360 square metres of flowered areas have been created or upgraded to make them insect-friendly, landowners and landlords have been advised on how to support insects, insect hotels have been set up and environmental education on this topic has been provided.
Protection of peat bogs – with the NABU climate fund and peat-free alternatives
During the financial year, the REWE Group and NABU have added another component to their cooperation as part of their long-standing partnership. Starting in 2022 and for five years, the REWE sales line will pay five million euros each year into the newly created NABU Climate Fund. The aim of this fund is to support measures being taken for the rewetting of peat bog soils which have been degraded due to agriculture and peat cutting. On the one hand, heavily drained peat bog areas in Germany and EU countries in the Baltic region are to be purchased or leased over the long term. On the other hand, farms are to receive support with switching over from conventional farming methods to climate-friendly wetlands management. Rewetting should enable the peat bogs to regain their original function as giant carbon stores (see also Climate Protection in the Supply Chain) and, in terms of biodiversity, as unique habitats for many species of animals and plants which have become rare such as the common snipe, moor frog or sundew.
In order to protect peat bogs from cutting, REWE, PENNY and, in particular, toom Baumarkt DIY stores as the first DIY chain in Germany to do so, decided back in 2016 to switch the entire soil product range (both private labels and brand products) over to peat-free alternatives by 2025 at the latest. In 2021, the private label product range of peat-free soils at toom comprised a total of 19 products, including seven Naturtalent by toom® potting soils, eleven products from toom's quality brand, plus one additional organic potting soil. The Naturtalent by toom® potting soils have been awarded the PRO PLANET label “Für mehr Klimaschutz” (For more climate protection) and certified by the Bio-Grünstempel® (Organic Green Seal). In addition to expanding the range of peat-free products, the proportion of peat substitutes made from renewable raw materials is also being gradually increased across all soils. All of toom's private label soils are now at least peat-reduced. With this switchover, toom Baumarkt DIY stores are helping to counteract climate change and making a contribution towards biological diversity. The REWE and PENNY sales lines have also supplemented their seasonal soil product range with peat-free and peat-reduced alternatives.
In the long term, wherever possible, the plan is to also replace peat with alternative materials for toom ornamental plants. Currently, ornamental plants in which a maximum of 50 per cent peat is used in the substrate can be awarded the PRO PLANET label “Für mehr Klimaschutz” (For more climate protection). This is intended to create an incentive for producers and suppliers and provide customers with guidance. In 2021, the product range of peat-free and peat-reduced plants in toom Baumarkt DIY stores consisted of 17 products.
Beneficial organism-friendly plants
REWE and PENNY are conducting campaigns throughout the year with “bee favourites” and “bee enticers”, while toom Baumarkt DIY stores started to offer an extensive product range of bee-friendly plants under the concept name “Bee Friends” in 2016. Since 2021, this has been replaced by the new concept of “beneficial-organism-friendly”. With this new concept, an entomologist and wild bee experts check not only how friendly the plants are to beneficial organisms at a species level, but also which insect group(s) they are suitable for. Therefore, toom is the first DIY store chain in Germany to differentiate between different flower-visiting insects groups in the assessment, which also generates positive feedback from the scientific side. In the new product range, plants are “beneficial-organism-friendly” if they are considered to be a pollen plant for honey bees, bumble bees or wild bees or a nectar plant for butterflies. Since 2021, toom Baumarkt DIY stores have only been selling plants under the new concept “beneficial-organism-friendly” which have been evaluated by experts and found to be suitable. The product range is to be expanded further. All potted plants which considered to be friendly to beneficial organisms are awarded the PRO PLANET label “Für mehr Artenvielfalt” (For more biodiversity). By the end of 2021, the product range of beneficial-organism-friendly plants included 127 items – including herbaceous perennials, flower bulbs, herbs and fruit trees.
Negative list for the use of pesticides in plants which are friendly to beneficial organisms
In addition to the assessment of beneficial-organism-friendly plants by an insect expert, an extended negative list which goes beyond the generally accepted negative list for all ornamental plants and is based on the recommendations of the Pesticide Action Network (Pestizid Aktions-Netzwerk e. V. (PAN)) has applied to this product range at toom Baumarkt DIY stores since 2021. According to this list, all active ingredients which are harmful to bees are banned from production of the beneficial-organism-friendly product range. In addition, the REWE Group's DIY chain has been cooperating with Austria's leading environmental organisation, GLOBAL 2000, to further reduce the use of pesticides in beneficial-organism-friendly plants since November 2020.
Negative list for the use of pesticides in conventional fruit and vegetables
The REWE Group has also set the goal of reducing pesticide levels in conventional fruit and vegetables and drawn up a negative list for this purpose. The active ingredients listed are not permitted to be used during production. The Group is working closely here with producers, NGOs and the scientific community on solutions which will minimise harm to the environment and health but still ensure production and yield security for farmers. For more information about the use of pesticides in conventional fruit and vegetables, see Environmental Aspects in the Supply Chain.
Reduction of pesticides and elimination of glyphosate at toom Baumarkt DIY stores
Glyphosate, the most widely used agricultural pesticide in the world, has repeatedly come under criticism. toom Baumarkt DIY stores stopped selling products which contain glyphosate in 2015 – the first DIY store chain in the industry to do so. In addition, the sale of pesticides which are particularly harmful to bees and their use in the production of the plant product range of toom Baumarkt DIY stores have also been 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 such that they go far beyond legal requirements. In 2017, it became the first DIY store chain in Germany to exclusively offer ornamental plants produced without the use of neonicotinoids classified as particularly harmful to bees by Greenpeace. In the area of chemical pesticides, in 2015 toom also completely stopped selling products which, according to a Greenpeace study, contain active ingredients that are especially harmful to bees.
Promoting local biodiversity with the nature conservation programme “Blühendes Österreich”
The foundation “Blühendes Österreich” (Blooming Austria) was set up in 2015 by the REWE Group in Austria together with the environmental protection organisation BirdLife Österreich. The foundation's mission is the strategic, transparent and systematic financing of nature conservation projects. By implementing projects together with partners from public institutes, non-profit organisations, communities, associations and the private sector, “Blühendes Österreich” particularly strengthens regional cooperation. Today, the foundation is not only the first, but also the largest private sector initiative aimed at a healthy environment and sustainable farming in Austria. In 2021, the foundation's budget was 800,000 euros.
The foundation's nature conservation strategy for 2018-2022 titled “Nachhaltigkeit verankern, Österreichs Vielfalt leben” (Anchoring Sustainability: Living Austria’s Diversity) has set the goal of protecting a total of 1,000 hectares of threatened environmental areas by 2022. In 2021, 121 farms took part in the FLORA programme (Förderung von Landwirt:innen und Organisationen zur Rettung unserer Artenvielfalt – Supporting Farmers and Organisations in Order to Save our Biodiversity). Since 2015, 230 farmers, environmental protection organisations, communities and other initiatives have received funding, thus preserving 951 hectares of environmentally valuable land. The financial support also helps small farming families from an economic planning perspective and secures jobs.
DER Touristik: Chili against elephants
DER Touristik is also campaigning for wildlife conservation with the non-profit organisation “DER Touristik Foundation e. V.”. As part of the project “Chili against Elephants”, awareness campaigns are taking place in Tanzania to promote ecological habitats and the protection of elephants. For further information, see Projects and Sponsorships.