In December 2019 Ethical Consumer searched the Lidl UK website for an environmental report or policy. The company's Sustainability Report 2017-18 was downloaded.

An environmental policy was deemed necessary to report on a company's environmental performance and set targets for reducing its impacts in the future. A strong policy would include two future, quantified environmental targets, demonstration by the company that it had a reasonable understanding of its main environmental impacts, be dated within two years and have its environmental data independently verified.

The report discussed climate change, carbon emmisions, energy, transport, sourcing of raw materials, packaging, recycling and waste. On a page entitled Detoxifying our Textiles it was stated that the company had pledged to meet the goals of the Greenpeace Detox commitment to eliminate the discharge of all hazardous chemicals from the whole lifecycle and all production procedures of apparel and footwear products no later than 2020. The company did not appear to have any discussion of agricultural inputs nor of water use, either in its main operations or throughout its supply chain. As such it was not considered to have demonstrated a reasonable understanding of its main impacts.

The report contained numerous quantified targets. These included:
- Reduce food waste per store by 25% by 2020 and 50% by 2030 (previous reports indicated that this was from a 2016 baseline).
- Procure 100% of our electricity from renewable sources from 2019.
- Reduce pallet emissions by 25% by 2028 (2018 baseline).
- By the end of 2019, switching all of the viscose used within own-brand textile products to Lenzing EcoVero, a more eco-friendly form of viscose.
The company had numerous other targets but these did not appear to have baselines. These included:
- 20% reduction in own-brand plastic packaging by 2022.
- Increase the recycled content of own-brand packaging to a minimum 50% by 2025.

The report had been independently assured by Ernst & Young LLP. While the scope of this assurance was not made completely explicit, it appeared to cover all of the data provided.

Overall Lidl UK received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for Environmental Reporting and lost half a mark in this category.

Reference:

Lidl Sustainability Report 2017-18 (2018)

In January 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Lidl UK's website which stated, "We’re rolling out the use of natural refrigerants across our portfolio to help lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 50% of all newly installed shop floor equipment, and all refrigeration technology in new and refurbished warehouses, now use natural refrigerants."
In January 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed Lidl's website which then stated, "We’re rolling out the use of natural refrigerants across our portfolio to help lower our greenhouse gas emissions. Approximately 50% of all newly installed shop floor equipment, and all refrigeration technology in new and refurbished warehouses, now use natural refrigerants."
The above statement did not address the Global Warming Potential of refrigerant gases.
EIA stated that supermarkets should remove any HFCs with Global Warming Potential above 2,500 in existing equipment as a matter of priority.

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 will ban the use HFCs with the GWP 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.

Lidl lost half a mark under Ethical Consumer's Climate Change category.

Reference:

https://www.lidl.co.uk (22 January 2019)

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.

Lidl scored a D rating overall and ranked joint 4th of the 10 supermarkets assessed in the report, along with Asda and Morrisons.

On reducing and preventing surplus food, Lidl was found to have implemented 7 of the 20 key indicators, however had not released any publicly available information on food waste at the time of publishing.

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. Lidl 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; according to Neighbourly website, Lidl donated 561,100 meals.

The food use hierarchy holds that food surplus unfit for human consumption should be used to feed animals. Lidl 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. Lidl 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 Lidl scored well in this report, this reference is for information only.

Reference:

Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

When searched in December 2019 for information on toxics policies for cosmetics, no information was found on the Lidl UK website despite it selling cosmetics products. Ethical Consumer received a questionnaire response from Lidl UK GmbH in March 2019. In response to a question regarding whether the company used phthalates, parabens or triclosan in its products, no answer was provided. Lidl therefore received Ethical Consumer's worst rating for toxic chemicals in cosmetics and lost a whole mark under Pollution & Toxics.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer questionnaire (14 March 2019)

In 2019, Pesticide Action Network UK conducted a survey to investigate what supermarkets were doing to minimise the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment, wildlife and human health. PANUK ranked the top ten UK supermarkets based on eight areas related to pesticides. They were ranked out of 4, where 1 was 'lagging behind', 2 was 'could do better', 3 was 'making good progress' and 4 was 'outstanding'.

Lidl came tenth in the supermarket rankings and overall were scored in the 'lagging behind' category. None of the supermarkets received the score 'outstanding' overall. The scores for Lidl were broken down as follows:

Supporting suppliers - 1
Residues in food - 1
Highly hazardous pesticides - 1
Customer engagement - 1
Bees and pollinators - 1
Transparency - 1
Pesticide products - 1
Organic - 1

As it scored badly across the board, Lidl lost a whole mark under Pollutions & Toxics.

Reference:

Ranking UK supermarkets on pesticides (28 January 2020)

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 Lidl - 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.
Lidl lost whole marks under Pollutions & Toxics and Workers' Rights in light of this story.

Reference:

SWEET FRUIT, BITTER TRUTH (May 2016)

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
Lidl ranked ninth in the table. Greenpeace said: “Although it performs well in areas like traceability from sea to shelf, Lidl’s own brand ‘NiXe’ tuna is not good for the environment. Nearly 80% of its tuna is caught in nets using destructive Fish Aggregating Devices. Lidl must commit to stop sourcing tuna caught using this method."
The company lost a whole mark in Ethical Consumer's Habitats & Resources category.

Reference:

Tuna League Table 2016 (27 February 2017)

It was reported in the Independent in May 2019 that major UK supermarkets were buying corned beef from JBS, a Brazilian meat firm linked to illegal deforestation in the Amazon.
Friends of the Earth found that Co-Op, Morrisons, Waitrose, Iceland and Lidl all sold corned beef from JBS. Morrisons, Lidl and the Co-Op sold own-brand products by JBS. Waitrose and Iceland sold corned beef by Princes with beef produced by JBS.

FoE investigators cross-referenced the product codes on the tins with regulatory documents? and supply-chain websites?, tracing the corned beef back to JBS slaughterhouses in Brazil.

At the same time, research group Earthsight said it found Sainsbury’s and Asda, as well as Morrisons and Lidl, still stocked JBS products. Sainsbury’s and Asda stock Exeter and Princes corned beef supplied by JBS.

Iceland, which sells corned beef by Princes, says?: "Princes is confident that it does not source any product from sites that have been called into question by the investigation, and that any issues Friends of the Earth has identified are historical and have already been addressed by JBS.”

The world's largest meatpacker had a history of buying cattle from farms that were illegally deforested. In 2017, JBS was fined nearly US$8 million for doing that.
JBS has also been accused?of ‘cattle laundering’, a tactic by which farms with illegal deforestation move cows to legal farms that then sell them on to JBS.
Deforestation displaces indigenous communities that have lived in the Amazon for generations.
Rainforests are also habitats to countless wild species, many of which we haven’t even discovered yet. Some plant species could hold the key to curing life-threatening conditions.
And these forests absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), the main planet-heating gas that we urgently need to reduce. Cutting down the rainforests releases CO2 into the air, ramping up the climate crisis – and erasing wildlife from the planet.
The cattle industry is responsible for 80% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.

Reference:

Major UK supermarkets ‘buy corned beef from meat firm linked to illegal razing of Amazon rainforests

According to the Viva! website, www.viva.org.uk, viewed in January 2019, 'The shocking secrets behind the trade in ‘novelty’ reindeer meat', Lidl was or recently had been, selling reindeer meat from Siberia. Viva! had uncovered concerns that the growing popularity of reindeer meat in Britain was causing the destruction of large wild predators including wolves, wolverines, lynxes, foxes and bears with cubs.

In Siberia, bounties are often put on wolves and in many areas there are calls for their localised extinction in order to protect reindeer farming.

Viva! said that Lidl was selling reindeer meat as a 'novelty', in itself popularising the consumption of meat from wild animals, and in-turn exerting potentially disastrous pressure on populations already suffering from the threats of climate change, urban encroachment, pollution and poaching - as well as their natural predators.

Viva! was calling on its supporters to contact the company telling them to stop stocking the product. The company lost a whole mark under Animal Rights and half a mark under Habitats & Resources in light of this criticism.

Reference:

The shocking secrets behind the trade in ‘novelty’ reindeer meat (15 January 2013)

In December 2019 Ethical Consumer viewed the Lidl website for a policy on palm oil. Its parent company, Lidl Stiftung & Co had submitted an Annual Communication on Palm Oil (ACOP) to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) in 2018, this was rated seperately under Lidl Stiftung. Lidl UK had responded to a questionnaire in March 2019, this was viewed. Regarding a question on palm oil sourcing the company stated that it used crude/ refined palm, palm kernel oil and palm-based derivatives. It stated that 92 suppliers to Lidl UK use palm oil in own-brand products. None of the company’s palm oil was said to be certified organic

It stated ‘In addition to our commitment to sourcing RSPO certified palm oil, we are a member of the Retailer Palm Oil Group. Through this group we are represented on the executive board of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and are able to work together to understand the palm oil supply chain and progress on key topics related to the sustainable production of Palm Oil.’

The company’s palm oil policy was available to view on the company’s website under a page titled 'Sustainable sourcing of raw materials'. The company stated that "100% of the palm oil, palm kernel oil and derivatives used in our products come from sustainably certified sources."

Lidl’s questionnaire provided the volumes of certified palm oil, palm kernel oil and palm oil derivatives under the different RSPO certification systems. 99.9% of its palm oil, 75% of its kernal oil and 86.6% of its derivatives was certified. This data only referred to Lidl UK. As the company also had stores all over Europe and in the United States, it did not receive marks for having group-wide commitments and disclosure, disclosing suppliers or conducting additional positive initiates in relation to palm oil sourcing.

Lidl UK received Ethical Consumer's middle rating for palm oil sourcing and lost half a mark under Palm Oil.

Reference:

Ethical Consumer questionnaire (14 March 2019)