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GRI 301


Packaging is part of our everyday life. It fulfils many important functions: to keep food fresh, protect it and enable its transportation. It also provides space for important information. However, many negative environmental effects arise along the packaging value chain. For example, the production of packaging requires the use of natural resources, consumes energy and creates emissions. If packaging waste is incorrectly disposed of and does not reach the recycling plant, it ends up in an incinerator. If it is not properly disposed of, it ends up in nature. The stakeholders of the REWE Group see packaging as a very important issue for the company (for more information, see Materiality Analysis).

The area of packaging plays a special role in the focus issue of the Circular Economy which, in addition to Climate and Biodiversity is anchored in the area of action of the environment within the Green Products Strategy 2030.

GRI 301: Materials

Management approach


In its Guidelines on Sustainable Business Practices, the 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, the REWE Group optimises the use of relevant resources in its business processes and takes product- and raw-material-related measures aimed at both the upstream and downstream links in the value chain.

The REWE Group is aware that resources are used and waste package is produced due to the packaging of its private label products. Consequently, the company takes numerous measures to reduce the impacts of its business model and promote the circular economy (some of these are described in Measures for more environmentally friendly packaging). During this process, the REWE Group focuses on the sales and service packaging of its private labels. Within this area of application, it has defined goals which vary depending on the sales line.

Binding operational framework

In order to make sales and service packaging more environmentally friendly, the REWE Group has created a Guideline on More Environmentally Friendly Packaging. It defines a binding operational framework for the REWE Group and its contract partners and describes which factors have fundamentally positive (dos) and negative (don’ts) effects on the environmental friendliness of a particular packaging.

In addition to this, the REWE Group published the Guideline on Circular Economy in 2021. It provides the basis for gradually anchoring the circular economy in the value chain of products. For the REWE Group, the circular economy is a meaningful approach towards conserving resources, protecting the environment and combating climate change. For further information, also see Circular Economy

Strategy process

Since packaging consumes considerable amounts of resources, the trade group has developed a comprehensive approach to ensuring more environmentally friendly packaging. To achieve this, the REWE Group worked closely with key stakeholders – from purchasing departments and selected NGOs through to experts in packaging design.

Data analysis was carried out first in order to develop the approach. Significant impacts and determining factors were then identified on the basis of this. The approach was then defined through goals and measures. The effectiveness of the management approach is put to the test, assessed and, if necessary, further developed each year as part of a stakeholder review process and the sustainability strategy day. There were no changes to the principles of the management approach in the reporting period. However, subgoals, for example in the area of recycled material, have been added. In addition, an overall strategy for the topic of circular economy was adopted (see Circular Economy).


The Sustainable Products department is strategically responsible for the topic of packaging and enables the combine to implement adopted strategies and measures. The topic is handled and advanced by a dedicated team within the department. When it comes to implementation for an individual product, Purchasing and Category Management are responsible for ensuring that packaging goals are implemented in day-to-day operations.


In order to make progress measurable in the area of packaging, the REWE Group has defined the following key performance indicator (KPI) with associated objective, which relates not to a particular reference year, but rather to the status quo of each individual packaging for private labels. The status quo is measured using criteria which the REWE Group has defined for more environmentally friendly packaging (see Implementation):

Goal Status
100% more environmentally friendly private label packaging by the end of 20301
In progress
Goal attained
Not available
Goal not attained
This goal applies to the REWE Group in Germany (REWE, PENNY, toom Baumarkt DIY stores) and, since 2019, also to the international sales lines (BILLA, BILLA PLUS, PENNY and ADEG).

In order to achieve the desired percentage of more environmentally friendly private label packaging of 100 per cent by the end of 2030, the REWE Group has set numerous subgoals in the area of packaging which are also subject to a continuous progress review. The data for some of these subgoals was collected quantitatively for the first time in 2021. Collection of data on the share of recyclable plastic packaging is not possible. Due to a lack of data transparency, it is also not possible to make any statements regarding goal achievement for paper packaging. The subgoals for REWE and PENNY in Germany are:

Goals 2019 2020 2021 Status
100% of PET private label packaging in the area of washing and cleaning agents to be made from recycled material by the end of 20211 - - 95%
An average of 50% recycled material in PET single-use drink bottles for private labels by the end of 20232 - - 38%
Reduction of the share of plastic in private label packaging of 20% by the end of 2025 compared with 2015 - - 22%
100% recyclable plastic private label packaging by the end of 2025 - - -
100% certified paper packaging at REWE and PENNY in Germany by the end of 2020 - - - -
In progress
Goal attained
Not available
Goal not attained
Wherever possible, the REWE Group strives for 20 per cent recycled material sourced from Germany’s “Gelber Sack” (Yellow Bag) programme, in which plastic rubbish is collected from private households in the country.
This is an objective which was adjusted during the financial year. It became apparent that the REWE Group would already achieve the previous goal of 25 per cent recycled material in 2021.
The data for some of these subgoals was collected quantitatively for the first time in 2021. Collection of data on the share of recyclable plastic packaging is not possible. Due to a lack of data transparency, it is also not possible to make any statements regarding goal achievement for paper packaging.


“More environmentally friendly packaging” is such which has the least possible impact on the environment. To achieve this, packaging is to be avoided, reduced or improved in terms of its environmental effects wherever possible. These principles are to be applied in the order indicated here – the packaging which is best from an environmental standpoint is therefore packaging which can be completely avoided.

Six criteria for more environmentally friendly packaging

In order to reduce the negative environmental impact of a particular packaging, the following six criteria are used as determining factors:

  • Use of reusable alternatives
  • Reduction of material usage
  • Promotion of recyclability
  • Use of secondary raw materials
  • Use of alternative materials
  • Use of certified raw materials

Packaging to which the criteria are applied also ideally has a better result when undergoing a life cycle assessment. The REWE Group views life cycle assessments as a helpful tool for evaluating the environmental friendliness of packaging, for example in the event of a material change.

Each optimisation of a particular packaging or packaging component according to the criteria has a positive environmental impact in principle and contributes to the goal of achieving “100 per cent more environmentally friendly private label packaging”. Packaging should always be optimised or reduced as comprehensively as possible. Packaging is constantly reviewed and continuously optimised on the basis of the current state of research and the latest developments.

The REWE Group uses three corresponding seals on products which have more environmentally friendly packaging to ensure transparency. The labels enable customers to see at glance on an increasing number of products which measures have already been implemented to optimise the packaging, such as reduced material usage, use of secondary raw materials or use of alternative materials.

In addition, disposal instructions have also been developed for packaging at REWE, PENNY and toom since 2021. This information is intended to help consumers correctly separate and dispose of the particular product packaging. The aim is to gradually apply these instructions to the majority of packaging during the course of 2022.

Systematic integration into purchasing processes

The approach for more environmentally friendly packaging is being systematically integrated into purchasing processes across all product ranges. The REWE Group ensures that knowledge is transferred within the company through measures such as a permanent working group on packaging.

When it comes to implementation, the REWE Group uses three pillars which build on each other:

  • The trade group anchors defined requirements for more environmentally friendly packaging in its purchasing processes. In order to evaluate packaging and packaging alternatives, the REWE Group has developed tools which allow the environmental friendliness of packaging to be classified based on the requirements.
  • Meetings with suppliers form the basis for cooperation, with a view to potential improvements in the environmental friendliness of packaging. Suppliers are also required to implement and comply with the strategy at various points. This varies depending on the product area: For example, suppliers must actively take note of dos and don’ts during the listing process, subgoals are fixed in writing in framework agreements, or guidelines are communicated to suppliers via the Supplier Portal.
  • Innovation products lead to the development of new packaging concepts, through involvement in research products and industry initiatives or through cooperation with partners from the supply chain or start-ups, for example. These concepts may include, for instance, the use of alternative raw materials or the avoidance of packaging through innovative technology.

Complaint process

Consumers can submit complaints or comments regarding private label packaging of the REWE Group via the standard customer hotlines. These queries are forwarded internally to the respective specialist department or even to the purchaser if the matter relates to a specific product. Responses are coordinated internally and feedback is provided through customer service.

Suppliers can also get in touch with the REWE Supplier Portal using an email address.

Special award for packaging

The REWE Group, in collaboration with the German Sustainability Award Foundation (Stiftung Deutscher Nachhaltigkeitspreis e. V.), awarded the German Sustainability Award in the packaging category for the third time during the financial year. The competition focused on concepts and ideas which reduce, optimise or avoid packaging, remain affordable in the mass market, and meet consumer needs to the greatest extent possible in terms of hygiene, information and convenience. The winner was Büttenpapierfabrik Gmund GmbH & Co. KG with its packaging paper made completely from hemp fibre.

Measures for more environmentally friendly packaging

The REWE Group is implementing a wide range of measures to make its packaging more environmentally friendly and optimise the use of resources. Measures and activities are divided according to the three principles “avoid, reduce, improve”.

The REWE Group is working hard to avoid packaging:

Discontinuation of plastic bags

To set an example regarding the reduction of plastic waste, the REWE Group has discontinued plastic bags at its sales lines well before the legal ban in Germany (January 1st, 2022) and Austria (January 1st, 2020):

  • Germany: REWE (2016), PENNY (2017), DER Touristik travel agencies (2017), toom Baumarkt DIY stores (2018) and Lekkerland (2020) – the last plastic bag in the food service area has now been replaced by a bag for life.
  • Austria: BILLA, BILLA Plus, PENNY, BIPA and ADEG (2017)

“Away From Plastic”

The REWE Group in Austria is working to reduce plastic on the shelves of BILLA, BILLA Plus, PENNY and ADEG through the “Away From Plastic” initiative. For example, Echt B!O, the private label of PENNY Austria, has sold blood oranges in cotton nets since 2018. Some fruits and vegetables are sold without packaging, including squashes and courgettes. In addition, the entire product range of organic fruit and vegetables in Austria has only been sold loose without packaging or in more environmentally friendly packaging since the end of 2019. In 2020 and 2021, the organic milk and yoghurts of the private label Ja! Natürlich were switched to reusable glass containers. Since the start of packaging optimisations in 2011, 1,110 tonnes of plastic have already been saved with the private label Ja! Natürlich alone.

Reusable nets in the area of fruit and vegetables

At the end of 2017, the REWE Group started to look at how to reduce the amount of plastic fruit and vegetable bags (“knot bags”) used: customers could purchase reusable fresh food nets from participating REWE test stores and bring them to transport fruit and vegetables on each shopping trip. It was also pointed out that fruit and vegetables with a natural protective outer layer can also be transported without any packaging at all. In October 2018, REWE was the first major food retailer in Germany to introduce these reusable fresh food nets nationwide. PENNY followed in 2019 with the nationwide introduction of cotton nets. In Austria too, the REWE Group was the first retailer to offer reusable fresh food nets back in 2018 – to transport unpackaged fruit and vegetables in manner which ensured the conservation of resources. The REWE Group in Austria received the WorldStar Packaging Award for this in 2020.

Natural branding instead of packaging

Since March 2017, REWE has been using “natural branding”: logos and information are applied directly to the outer skin of sweet potatoes by laser. Only pigments in the outermost layer of skin are removed. The labelling only takes place on the surface, is completely contactless and has no influence on taste, quality or shelf life. This makes printed packaging to identify organic products superfluous, enabling the use of plastic, paper and metal to be reduced.

Fruit and vegetables unpackaged

The REWE and PENNY sales lines have already been offering various fruit and vegetable products without packaging for a long time – and are continuously expanding their commitment. Since April 2020, for example, REWE in Germany has been selling organic fruit and vegetables nationwide as far as possible without plastic or with improved packaging. This enabled 210 tonnes of plastic and 80 tonnes of paper to be saved in the area of organic fruit and vegetables in the rollout year compared to 2019, and these figures are expected to grow in line with the increasing sales in this product range. This step was preceded by an “unpackaged test” in 630 REWE and nahkauf stores in Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Saarland. As part of this test, plastic packaging was avoided as far as possible or more environmentally friendly packaging was used in the area of organic fruit and vegetables. The Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) provided support here with its expertise in an advisory capacity.

Rethinking packaging material

Another example of the avoidance of packaging material is the switchover from film packaging to adhesive tape rolls or adhesive labels for cucumbers. By avoiding the use of film packaging for cucumbers, REWE and PENNY were able to save around 170 tonnes of plastic in the financial year.

toom Baumarkt DIY stores are also working to avoid packaging material. For example, the sales line is reducing the use of plastic labels for plant products. Nine million labels had already been saved by 2021, including two million in the reporting period alone.

DER Touristik: Refillable drinking bottles rather than disposable plastic bottles

It has become more difficult to avoid single-use plastics when travelling. Since winter 2017/18, in order to reduce the amount of plastic waste in holiday regions, Go Vacation, DER Touristik’s destination agency, has been giving guests of DER Touristik tour operators (Dertour, Jahn Reisen, ITS, Meiers Weltreisen, ADAC Reisen, Travelix and Kuoni) in Indonesia refillable drinking bottles at the beginning of their trip, which they can also take home. The bottles can be filled up at all hotels on the tours and during breaks at restaurants thanks to water dispensers. Disposable plastic bottles will be completely dispensed with in the future. In Bali, guests also receive cloth bags, meaning that there is no need for plastic bags. The drinking bottles and cloth bags have been produced locally. Due to the pandemic, no tours took place during the financial year and the campaign has been paused.

Avoiding single-use plastic in tourism: “Plastic Free Balearics”

The goal of the Futouris project “Plastic Free Balearics” is to reduce the use of single-use plastic in the hotel industry or avoid it completely. By doing so, the aim is to reduce the amount of plastic waste and optimise further recycling. DER Touristik Group is taking part in this project with a hotel in Majorca. Based on the findings of a plastic hot spot analysis, measures have been implemented such as the provision of plastic-free straws, loose teas, dispensers for soap, shampoo and shower gel as well as communication measures for guests and training sessions for employees. In addition, the plastic packaging of products and food delivered is being analysed and, where possible, reduced. Due to the corona pandemic, only a few measures were implemented as part of the industry project in 2020 and 2021. However, the guidelines “Plastic-free holidays on Balearic Islands” were published. They help hotels and tourism businesses to find more sustainable alternatives to frequently used single-use plastic products such as, for example, plastic water bottles, straws or cups.

Packaging-free products at the fresh food counter

Following successful tests in March 2019 and the rollout during the following July, the REWE Group in Austria is enabling customers to bring their own containers to fill with sausage, cheese or coffee drinks at all BILLA and BILLA Plus stores. The customers bring along an empty, clean reusable box or coffee cup. The employees fill this container and attach a label. This reduces the use of packaging. Since June 2019, it has also been possible to bring along containers to almost all German REWE stores which have fresh food counters. However, this option had to be suspended during the financial year due to the corona pandemic.

Reusable systems for salad bars or take-away coffee

Working together with the start-up VYTAL, the REWE sales line was the first food retailer in Germany to offer a free reusable system for its salad bars when it was introduced to pilot stores in 2020. What is special here is that the system operates without a deposit. A VYTAL vending machine containing clean, reusable packaging stands next to the salad bar. Customers can take a bowl from the vending machine by scanning the QR code in their VYTAL customer account. The bowls can be filled as normal and paid for at the till. The bowl’s tare weight is automatically subtracted. The bowl can be returned either to the returns machine at the REWE store or other VYTAL partners such as cafés and restaurants within 14 days. The deposit-free reusable system is currently being tested at five REWE stores in Cologne.

Lekkerland has been a cooperation partner of RECUP since the end of 2020. With its takeaway coffee cups, the sales line is offering a reusable alternative with a deposit system at participating sales outlets.

Reusable plant trays at toom

toom Baumarkt DIY stores use several million single-use plant trays each year to transport plants from nurseries to warehouses and stores and then onto the customers. The REWE Group's DIY chain also wants to reduce plastic waste here. As part of a pilot project in 34 stores, toom Baumarkt DIY stores have been testing a reusable alternative which provides a closed reusable material cycle since July 2021.

If it is not possible to completely avoid packaging, the REWE Group takes various measures to try to reduce the amount of material used:

Reducing packaging material

By cutting down the amount of film used for selected REWE and PENNY private label products, e.g. for breakfast bags and refuse sacks or packaging for kitchen towels and toilet paper, huge amounts of plastic have been saved in the past. In Austria too, the REWE Group is working to reduce material consumption: the BIPA sales line has been offering selected products from the bi good brand in refill bags since 2020. This measure saved up to 75 per cent packaging material compared with 2019.

Savings thanks to flow packs

Since 2020, the REWE sales line has been selling Wilhelm Brandenburg minced beef in so-called flow packs. By packaging under a protective gas atmosphere, it was possible to save around 60 per cent of plastic in the year of its introduction compared with the previous year, corresponding to around 35 tonnes per year.

Yoghurt lid as a reusable solution

Both REWE and PENNY have gradually stopped using the additional plastic lid for 500 gram pots of private label yoghurt, soy yoghurt and skyr since summer 2020. Through this measure, the two sales lines have saved around 146,000 kilograms of plastic each year. So that customers can conveniently and hygienically reseal the opened yoghurt pot, REWE and PENNY offer food-safe reusable lids. In 2021, this initiative was also introduced to PENNY Austria, BILLA, BILLA PLUS and ADEG. This enables around 50,000 kilograms of plastic to be saved each year.

If it is not possible to reduce the packaging, it is improved as far as possible in terms of environmental friendliness:

Circular economy for materials

The REWE Group is a member of the Recyclat-Initiative, an alliance of partners from a range of different industries that promotes effective recycling and practises the principle of a circular economy. Their shared goal is to develop sustainable closed loops and to use materials produced by Germany’s “Gelber Sack” (Yellow Bag) programme, in which plastic rubbish is collected from private households in the country. Since 2017, for the product group “washing, cleaning, scrubbing”, REWE and PENNY have been steadily switching to packaging made entirely from recycled material. Twenty per cent of this material comes from “Gelber Sack” collections. In addition, REWE and PENNY have been offering shower gel and soaps from the private label “today” in packaging made entirely from recycled material since 2019. In this case too, twenty per cent of the material comes from “Gelber Sack” collections. The use of raw materials from “Gelber Sack” collections is possible due to a special sorting technology based on laser optics. In the future, the REWE Group wants to switch more packaging to recycled material (for more information, see Management Approach”).

Private label drink bottles made from recycled material

Many private label drink bottles from the REWE Group have long consisted of a significant proportion of recycled PET (rPET). At the start of 2019, REWE and PENNY were the first food retailers to introduce drink bottles made completely from recycled plastic – for example, the 0.75 l water bottle (still) with sports cap of the private labels PENNY Ready and REWE Beste Wahl. Since the end of 2021, all drink bottles of private labels in the convenience sector have been made entirely from rPET. For REWE Bio, the proportion of recycled material in drink bottles is 50 per cent. In addition, the bottles of Lekkerland's private label Santa Emilia and those of GoFresh juices, smoothies and shots consist of 100 per percent and 75 per cent rPET respectively.

Use of recycled plastic

Working with its suppliers and other partners, toom Baumarkt DIY stores have developed packaging made of nearly 100 per cent recycled plastic. In 2011, toom began to sell its private label paint in containers made from recycled plastic (Procyclen®). In 2021, the product range included 111 items. The carbon dioxide emissions from containers produced using recycled material are up to 50 per cent less than for packaging made of primary material. This initiative has helped toom Baumarkt DIY stores to save over 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide since its introduction. In 2015, the sales line also added paint trays, buckets and storage boxes made of recycled plastic to its product range and it is continuously expanding the offering of products made partly from recycled material.

In 2021, for example, the first private label products in the area of potting soil were switched to optimised packaging: the improved packaging consists of recyclable film with at least 80 per cent post-consumer recycling material (PCR). The plan for 2022 is to gradually further expand the offering of potting soils with this packaging. In July 2020, toom Baumarkt DIY stores also began to require its plant suppliers to use only recyclable cultivation pots which consist of at least 50 per percent PCR. Since the start of 2021, this proportion has increased from 70 to over 90 per cent.

bi good: Packaging with the highest possible recycled content

In 2014, the BIPA sales line in Austria introduced a new line for household and care products under the name bi good. The packaging consists exclusively of recyclable materials and has the currently maximum possible recycled content. For example, bottles (HDPE or PET) and folding boxes (paper) are produced from 100 per cent recycled material while the figure for tubes (PE) is 60 per cent.

Supporting a functioning recycling system

A functioning recycling system is essential so that packaging materials can be reused following disposal. For this, in turn, the packaging waste needs to be separated according to type. To support this process, the REWE Group has been a founding member of “Holy Grail 2.0” since 2020. The aim of the initiative is to enable a better sorting process through a digital watermark on packaging. The codes are imperceptible to the naked eye and applied to the entire packaging. They are identified in the waste sorting plant using a high-resolution camera and the packaging can be automatically sorted according to the respective data. The result: better sorting streams and thus higher quality recycled materials.

Use of alternative materials

Another approach to improving packaging is the use of grass paper. This alternative packaging material consists partly of sun-dried grass, a fast-growing raw material, and partly of wood. Currently, grass paper is being used as packaging in various areas of the product ranges at REWE and PENNY in Germany.

The REWE Group in Austria also uses grass paper. This material has been used to package herb and flower seeds as well as teas of the brand Ja! Natürlich since 2020.

At toom Baumarkt DIY stores, the packaging of beneficial-organism-friendly seeds was also switched to grass paper in 2021 – with a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 40 per cent per bag. The sales line began to gradually switch the composite materials of protective covers to thin kraft paper back in 2020. And since 2022, flower bulb bags made from composite material (plastic and paper) have been replaced with ones which consist exclusively of paper. This will make it much easier to recycle them in the future. For plant products which are placed in the warm storage building, toom has been gradually switching the label material from plastic to paper since 2021, thus saving 64 per cent carbon dioxide equivalent. The sticks of stick-in labels will be made from bamboo rather than plastic in the future.