Middle Ethical Consumer rating for Environmental Reporting (November 2020)
In November 2020 Ethical Consumer conducted internet searches to find out how Aldi South reported on its environmental impacts. The group's corporate responsibility website, cr.aldisouthgroup.com, and main website, www.aldi.co.uk, were both searched. Ethical Consumer also found its most recent CSR report, entitled: '2017 International Corporate Responsibility'.

Aldi's 2017 CSR report outlined the company's approach with regard to resources. It included the following resources: palm oil, wood and paper, cocoa, coffee, fish and seafood and soy. The report provided information and statistics for all of these resources; for example, the report stated that Aldi's overall share of certified coffee was 43.44% and its share of certified palm oil was 74.14%.

The report also contained a group-wide international climate strategy and discussed refrigeration, lighting, heating, carbon footprint, greenhouse gases, energy and electricity, recycling and construction. Aldi's corporate website also covered the issues of waste and plastic packaging.

The company's website also provided more detailed information about Aldi's energy use. It stated that 94% of the electricity it used in 2015 was from green, renewable energy sources.

However, the company only discussed the use of agrichemicals with regards to its cocoa supply chain and no mention of pesticides or water use was made; therefore it was not considered to have demonstrated adequate understanding of its main environmental impacts.

Aldi provided a number of dated, quantified targets to reduce its environmental impacts, stating that:
- "At present, we are using a refrigerant with a GWP of less than 2,200 for medium-temperature refrigeration in 75% of our stores and aim to increase this share to 100% of our stores by 2025"
- "By 2022 Aldi aims for 100% of all own label packaging to be recyclable, reusable or compostable (where it does not have a detrimental effect on product quality or safety, or increase food waste)."

The report had been independently audited by KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Independently audited figures were given a tick in the report. This showed that only a select few pieces of environmental performance data had been audited. Ethical Consumer would expect a company of Aldi's size to have its entire environmental report independently audited.

Aldi's 2017 CSR report was now more than 2 years old, but there was some further more up to date information on the company's website, and many of the target deadlines had not been surpassed, therefore Ethical Consumer accepted this as a sufficiently up to date policy.

Due to the fact that Aldi South had an environmental report that included at least two future performance targets dated within the last two years, but was not considered to have demonstrated adequate understanding of its environmental impact or have been adequately audited, it received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting. (ref: 59)

Reference:

cr.aldisouthgroup.com (30 January 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Aldi Sud's website which stated the following: "We monitor our refrigeration units closely to ensure they operate efficiently and greenhouse gas emissions remain as low as possible. We have also increased the amount of stores using heat we recover from our fridges, chillers and freezers to 36% in the UK, and 39% in Ireland, thus reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.
You’ll be pleased to know we have converted all of our chiller cabinets and cold rooms running on a refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 3,780 to a much lower GWP of 1,824. A huge achievement. And in 2015, we began a 3-year programme to replace our chest freezers running on a refrigerant with a GWP of 3,780 for models running on a GWP of 3."

Several stories about Aldi introducing "natural refrigerants" were also found. One article stated, "The transition to CO2 refrigeration units will see Aldi’s potential refrigerant gas carbon emissions cut by 99%." However, it was not clear that this process had been completed and no evidence of this project could be found on Aldi's websites.

It was apparent that Aldi were attempting to tackle the issue of refrigerants, however it still had some way to go. Aldi therefore lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer’s climate change category.

In October 2014 Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released it 6th and final report called Chilling Facts: Closing the doors on HFCs. The report provided research into the growing uptake of natural refrigerants among some of the world's leading retailers, reflecting a market shift towards climate-friendly refrigeration in the supermarket sector. According to the report hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are the world's fastest growing source of man-made emissions, rising at an alarming rate of 10-15 per cent a year. EIA considered the adaptation of HFC/CO2 hybrid systems as a potentially useful stepping stone towards HFC-free systems, but not as an end point in themselves. The overall aim should be to phase out these gases in favour of climate-friendly alternatives. The report looked at the chemicals used in refrigerating both in-store fridges and freezers as well as the transportation of goods.

The report recommended that retailers should:
1. Commit to installing only HFC-free systems in all new stores and refurbishments, across entire estate, including their food transport systems and international operations;
2. Commit to a total phase-out by 2025 at the latest (the UK Government ban on HFC above 2500 from 2020.)
3. Fit doors on all chiller and freezer units as standard
4. Remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority.

Reference:

www.aldi.co.uk/ (8 January 2020)

The campaign group Feedback published a report in June 2018 entitled 'The food waste scorecard: an assessment of supermarket action to address food waste'. The report ranked UK supermarkets based on publicly available information, mainly from their websites or news articles, to assess their efforts to tackle food waste in the industry.

The report measured supermarkets against the food use hierarchy. Feedback established key indicators for each facet of the food use hierarchy, which include reducing and preventing surplus food as a priority, followed by redistributing surplus food, recycling surplus food and finally the proper disposal of food waste. Supermarkets scored a point for each of the 32 key indicators successfully implemented.

Aldi scored a D+ rating overall and ranked 3rd out of 10 supermarkets assessed in the report.

On reducing and preventing surplus food, Aldi was found to have implemented 8 of the 20 key indicators, however had not released any publicly available information on food waste. Aldi, along with Tesco, was one of the only supermarkets to sign up to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of halving food waste from farm to fork by 2030. The SDG is deemed by Feedback to be a more ambitious target than the UK’s national voluntary agreement (Courtauld 2025), to which all the UK supermarkets assessed in the report are signed up.

The second step in the food use hierarchy is redistribution, which involves surplus food that is fit for human consumption being sent to charities and organisations that redistribute food. Aldi was found to have implemented 2 of the 4 key indicators and scored 1 out of 3 available points for the quantity of food redistributed, which totalled 112 tonnes based on the most recent data available at the time of publishing.

The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Aldi did not score any points under this criteria and was not found to be engaging in this activity.

The final step in the food use hierarchy is the disposal of inedible food waste. Most UK supermarkets have a zero waste to landfill commitment. Instead, large quantities of food suitable for human consumption is being sent to Anaerobic Digestion (AD) to be converted into energy. According to the Feedback report, AD should only be used to process food waste which is unsuitable for redistribution or animal feed. Aldi was recognised for fulfilling 1 of the 3 key indicators under the disposal criteria due to its zero waste to landfill commitment.

The report stated, "Producing our food costs our planet dearly, with Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from agriculture, forestry and fisheries doubling over the past 50 years (FAO 2014) to nearly 20% of emissions resulting from human activity. Globally, around one third of all food produced is wasted (FAO 2011)". As Aldi scored well in this report, this reference is for information only.

Reference:

Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In January 2020 Ethical Consumer searched for information on Aldi's use of phthalates, parabens or triclosan in its products.

Ethical Consumer had received a questionnaire from Aldi in March 2019. In response to a question regarding the company's use of phthalates, parabens or triclosan in its products, it was stated: 'We have signed up to Greenpeace’s Detox initiative and continue to work towards removal of 11 hazardous chemicals from our supply chains.' However this appeared to focus on textiles and the shoes supply chain.

Ethical Consumer stated that all companies which produce cosmetics should have a toxic chemical policy which covered the following: triclosan, parabens and phthalates.

Ethical Consumer viewed Aldi's website for a policy on toxics related to cosmetics and the aforementioned toxics. No policy could be found. Without a policy to ban or phase these chemicals out Aldi Sud received a worst rating for its toxic chemicals policy.

Triclosan is an antibacterial and is a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer and are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors.

As a result Aldi lost a full mark under the Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Questionnaire (14 March 2019)

In May 2016, Oxfam Germany published a report called: “Sweet Fruit, Bitter Truth: German Supermarkets’ Responsibility For The Inhuman Conditions Which Prevail In The Banana And Pineapple Industries In Costa Rica And Ecuador.”
The report followed an investigation undertaken by Oxfam Germany in 2008 which revealed the shocking conditions in the pineapple production industry in Costa Rica. In 2016 Oxfam found that little had improved.
Dr. Franziska Humbert, Advisor for business and human rights at Oxfam Germany and author of the report said “the conditions on plantations have barely improved over the past eight years. The water tanker is still needed to provide drinking water to the communities whose groundwater has been contaminated in the areas around pineapple plantations. Large companies which boast of their own sustainability dump their waste water right next to drinking water reservoirs, not even making any effort to hide it. Companies which share responsibility for the contamination of ground water do not pay any compensation to those affected, nor do they construct new waterworks. The workers’ complaints concerning their wages, working hours or the breaches of their trade union rights also shocked me.”
The report went onto blame supermarkets – in particular the German retailers including Aldi - for the untenable conditions which prevail in the banana and pineapple industries. It said “they abuse their market power in forcing down prices paid to producers and suppliers. For example, the import prices for pineapple decreased by around 45 per cent from 2002– 2014, despite increasing production costs. This contributes to the intensification of traditional exploitative structures in both countries, to the fact that the plantation workers’ wages in Costa Rica and Ecuador are too low to support a family, and to the perpetuation of unstable employment conditions. While the supermarket chains meticulously check the imported fruits’ appearance, refusing to accept entire deliveries due to even the smallest flaw, they take social and ecological criteria much less seriously. This investigation reveals (too) many violations of human and labour rights in the production of bananas and pineapples.”
The report talked about the use of highly hazardous pesticides and contamination of ground water. Many of the workers surveyed reported a high rate of disabilities, miscarriage and cancer in the areas around plantations. They also reported frequent respiratory disease, nausea, skin allergies and dizziness.
It said “The Ecuadorian banana industry uses highly poisonous substances such as Paraquat, which is not licensed for use in the EU, or the cancer-causing products Mancozeb and Glyphosate. Spraying pesticides from airplanes is standard. During a survey on a plantation which supplies Lidl amongst others, 60 per cent of the interviewed workers stated that they work on the plantations during or straight after airplane spraying has taken place – a clear violation of state-recommended re-entry safety periods. In Costa Rica too, workers of producers which supply German supermarkets report that pesticides are sprayed whilst they work on the fields.”
Issues such as repression of trade unions and precarious working conditions were also found.
Oxfam demanded that German supermarket chains do justice to their ecological and social responsibility.
Aldi lost whole marks in the categories of Pollution & Toxics and Workers' Rights in light of this story.

Reference:

SWEET FRUIT, BITTER TRUTH (May 2016)

In January 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Aldi's websites, and a questionnaire that Aldi had completed in March 2019, for information about its cotton sourcing policy.

The questionnaire stated that suppliers must not knowingly source cotton from Uzbekistan; they are encouraged to monitor and track their cotton supply chains on the Better Cotton Initiative website. However, it was not clear whether this policy applied to the whole company group, or how it was applied and monitored.

The questionnaire said it used organic cotton, but did not state it used only organic cotton. It stated ‘certified cotton is cultivated according to certain requirements which, for example, regulate the use of fertilisers and pesticides. In Germany and Austria we offer special buy textiles products containing cotton which is certified according to, for example, the Fairtrade standard, GOTS and the Organic Content Standard (OCS). In addition to this, cotton which is certified according to GOTS or OCS also originates from controlled organic cultivation.’

Regarding GM cotton it stated ‘We request that suppliers do not use GM ingredients and/or derivatives in our non-food products.’ It was not clear how it ensured and monitored this- especially as not all of its cotton appeared to be certified organic.

The Aldi CSR website stated that "We will increase the use of sustainable cotton and ensure that only sustainable cotton is used for our ALDI-exclusive garments and household textiles from 2025 onwards. By 2025, we will therefore require the cotton used for our ALDI-exclusive products to be of either recycled origin or certified according to one of the following internationally recognised sustainability standards: Fairtrade, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Cotton made in Africa (CmiA), Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)"

However, Aldi was currently still using cotton that was not certified by these standards.

According to Anti-Slavery international (ASI) website viewed by Ethical Consumer in August 2018, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan were two of the world’s largest exporters of cotton, and every year their governments forcibly mobilised over one million citizens to grow and harvest cotton. Due to the high proportion of cotton likely to have come from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and the prevalence of forced labour in its production, the company lost half a mark in the Workers Rights category.

The Organic Trade Association website, www.ota.com, stated in July 2018 that cotton covered roughly 2.78% of global arable land, but accounted for 12.34% of all insecticide sales and 3.94% of herbicide sales.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), a non-profit pro biotech organisation, genetically modified cotton accounted for 80% of cotton grown in 2017.

Overall, Aldi was marked down under Worker's Rights and lost half a mark in this category due to its lack of a current policy for avoiding the use of Uzbeki cotton.

Due to the impacts of the widespread use of pesticides in cotton production worldwide the company also lost half a mark in the Pollution & Toxics category.

Due to the prevalence of GM cotton in cotton supply chains and the lack of any evidence that the company avoided it, it was assumed that some of the company's cotton products contained some GM material. As a result it lost half a mark under the Controversial Technology category.

Overall the company received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for its cotton sourcing policy.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer Questionnaire (14 March 2019)

In January 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Aldi's completed questionnaire from March 2019 for information about its timber sourcing. It stated, "By the end of 2020, all of our wood and paper products will be either sourced from forests certified to Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or Programme for the Endorsement of Forestry Certification (PEFC), or made from 100% recycled sources. All our toilet paper, kitchen paper, napkins and facial tissues, advertising and point of sale materials (including our weekly Specialbuys leaflet) and 100% of our baby range is FSC or PEFC certified."

The company's website also added, "In 2018, 75% of our products with wood or paper components were either FSC or PEFC-certified or contained 100% recycled material. Also, 40% of our pulp-based packaging is FSC or PEFC-certified or is made from at least 70% recycled material."

Regarding a packaging goal, it stated in its questionnaire: "All relevant packaging will be certified or consist of recycled material by the end of 2020. Relevant packaging for food and non-food products within our core range include wood/paper/cardboard-based components made of monomaterial or composite (multi-material) cardboard-based packaging for liquids."

Ethical Consumer's timber sourcing ranking required companies scoring a 'best' to cover six of the below issues:

1. Having a timber sourcing policy that covers all timber and timber-derived products
2. the exclusion of illegal timber or that sourced from unknown sources and...
3. ...a discussion on how a company ensures/ implements this
4. clear targets for sourcing timber from sustainably managed sources
5. a discussion of a good minimum standard
6. preference given to certified sources
7. a discussion about tropical hardwoods (THW) and the percentage of THW sourced that are FSC certified
8. involvement with a multi-stakeholder initiative or bridging programme such as the World Wildlife Fund- Global Forest Trade Network
9. use of reclaimed or recycled wood/ paper
10. a high total percentage (50%+) of FSC certified timber sourced by the company.

Aldi received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for its timber sourcing policy due to the fact it had a timber sourcing policy that had clear targets for sourcing sustainable timber; showed a preference for certified sources; and it used recycled materials. Although in the company had a high percentage of certified sourcing of its timber (75%), this was stated as "either FSC or PEFC" which did not statisfy issue number 10 in the list above. As a result the company lost half a mark under Habitats & Resources.

Reference:

www.aldi.co.uk/ (8 January 2020)

In 2016 Greenpeace released an updated version of its Tuna League Table (www.greenpeace.org.uk/tunaguide2016) which was viewed by Ethical Consumer in February 2017. Greenpeace sent questionnaires to each of the eleven major supermarkets and tuna brands in the UK. The companies were judged over seven criteria. 1. Traceability 2. Sustainability 3. Legality 4. Equity 5. Sourcing Policy 6. Transparency and customer information 7. Driving change
Aldi ranked 5th out of 11 in the Guide. Greenpeace said: "Aldi’s own ‘Ocean Rise’ brand sources only pole and-line or free-school tuna (no destructive Fish Aggregating Devices are used), meaning 100% sustainable fishing methods and impacts on wildlife are minimised. However, Aldi should commit to avoiding overfished or problem stocks."
Due to the fact Aldi was not yet considered a leader in the Greenpeace ranking it lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer’s Habitats and Resources category.

Reference:

Tuna League Table 2016 (27 February 2017)

In April 2018 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) issued a press release estimating the proportion of fish sold by supermarkets which was MSC certified. Aldi had 80%.

The MSC label was reported to ensure that the fish being bought had been caught in an environmentally friendly way. MSC stated “Only seafood from fisheries that meet our strict standard for sustainability can be sold with the blue MSC label. These fisheries ensure that fish are caught at levels that allow fish populations and the ecosystems on which they depend to remain healthy and productive for the future… All along the supply chain, from ocean to plate, MSC certified fish and seafood is separated from non-certified. It is clearly labelled and can be traced back to a certified sustainable source.”

As Aldi had more than two thirds of its range certified it was not marked down in the Habitats and Resources category.

Reference:

Aldi swims ahead of British supermarkets in sustainable seafood (18 April 2018)

In January 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Aldi's completed questionnaire that is submitted in March 2019 for information regarding its palm oil sourcing. Its stated that the International Corporate Responsibility team reported to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) on behalf of Aldi South Group, and all palm oil used in own brand products is RSPO certified.

Ethical Consumer viewed ALDI International Services GmbH & Co. oHG (Aldi South) 2018 Annual Communication on Progress (ACOP) submitted to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Ethical Consumer also viewed a statement on Aldi’s website which addressed the issues surrounding the production and use of palm oil.

The company stated that its submission covered all markets (countries) where it sold products containing palm oil but only covered Aldi’s own-brand products. The figures in the report disclosed volumes of palm products used in the period, the company appeared to have 99.99% of its palm oil certified by the RSPO, with four tonnes not covered by RSPO certification mechanisms. 29% of this was certified as Segregated, which is the most traceable class of palm oil the RSPO mechanisms offer. The Aldi South Group was said to be an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), the Palm Oil Transparency Coalition (POTC) and was actively involved in the Smallholder Steering Committee.

Aldi's March 2019 questionnaire stated that it did not source palm oil directly; this is purchased by suppliers. A past Ethical Consumer questionnaire answered by Aldi in April 2018 provided more detail, stating: “We do not have a direct supply of palm oil. We have suppliers that have palm oil in their products; they are required to provide RSPO certificates for all palm oil ingredients and derivatives and for their final production facility.”

The questionnaire went on to say: "We do not currently record organic palm oil in our products. Instead we require all palm oil in our food products to be Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO) as defined by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Our palm oil policy applies to palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm derivatives and fractions. We require that 100% of palm oil contained in food products sold in the UK and Ireland is RSPO-certified from physical supply chains. We accept Identity Preserved, Segregated or Mass Balance systems. We do not accept RSPO credits for food products."

Aldi was not given a mark for a group wide disclosue due to the fact that its ACOP did not cover all its non-food items.

Overall the company received Ethical Consumer’s middle rating for its palm oil policy and practice and lost half a mark under the Palm Oil category.

Reference:

RSPO ACOP 2018 (2019)