In November 2020, 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 emissions, 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.


Lidl Sustainability Report 2017-18 (2018)

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Lidl UK’s website, looking for information on what the company was doing to reduce its climate change impact. Ethical Consumer was looking for the following:

1 a) For the company to show that it has a reasonable understanding of its areas of climate impact and how to ameliorate them, and appears to be taking steps to do so

Lidl UK’s corporate website included a page dedicated to discussing the company’s strategy relating to climate change. This page gave details of the following steps the company was taking:

-the company was working to reduce emissions through transport by making distribution more efficient.

-the company had “made the decision to purchase 100% of the electricity we use from renewable sources”

-the company was working to improve energy efficiency in its stores “From glazed doors on fridges (achieving energy savings of up to 40%), to rapid action insulated doors with air curtains within our warehouses”

1 b) For the company to have relevant sector-specific climate policies in place

An important climate impact area in the supermarkets sector is the use of refrigerants. Lidl’s 2017 sustainability report stated “We’re rolling out the use of natural refrigerants across our portfolio to help lower our greenhouse gas emissions. 50% of all newly installed shop floor equipment, and all refrigeration technology in new and refurbished warehouses, now use natural refrigerants.” However, no statement was found committing the company to completely phasing out damaging HFC refrigerants.

1 c) For the company to not be involved in any particularly damaging projects like tar sands, oil or aviation, to not be subject to damning secondary criticism regarding its climate actions.

No evidence was found to indicate that the company was involved in the above activities

2) For the company to report its scope 1&2 emissions annually

Lidl's 2018 report contained the company's scope 1 & 2 emmissions data for the years 2017 and 2018.

3) For the company to report scope 3 emissions, covering at least tier one suppliers (all greenhouse gases, which means reporting in CO2e, not just CO2).

No scope 3 GHG emissions data was found.

4) For the company to have a target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in line with international agreements (counted as the equivalent of at least 2.5% cut per year in scope 1&2 emissions), and to not count offsetting towards this target.

Lidl UK’s climate change web page stated the following three goals:

"Cut carbon emissions from our logistics, through a 25% reduction of carbon per pallet by 2028
“Set an ambitious target to reduce emissions across our supply chain (Scope 3) by 2020
"Set an ambitious target to reduce our scope 1&2 emissions across our supply chain aligned to a science based trajectory"

However, no target for the reduction of absolute emissions (rather than per sales unit) appeared to be in place at the time of writing.

Overall, the company received Ethical Consumer’s Worst Rating for carbon management and reporting and lost a full mark under the Climate Change category.

Reference: (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.


Food Waste scorecard 2018 (18 April 2019)

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Lidl UK corporate website for the company's policy on the use of the hazardous chemicals parabens, triclosan and phthalates.
Some forms or uses of these chemicals were banned or restricted in the EU or the USA.
Triclosan is an antibacterial and a suspected endocrine disruptor. Parabens are also endocrine disruptors and have been linked to breast cancer. They are used as preservatives. Phthalates, usually DEP or DBP, are used in fragrances and are endocrine disruptors.
A strong policy on toxics would be no use of these chemicals or clear, dated targets for ending their use.

The company appeared to have no policies on the use of toxic chemicals in household and personal care products, therefore it received Ethical Consumer's worst rating and lost a whole mark under Ethical Consumer's Pollution and Toxics category.

Reference: (2020)

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.


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.



In 2016 Greenpeace released an updated version of its Tuna League Table ( 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.


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.


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

In November 2020 Ethical Consumer viewed Lidl's timber sourcing policy on its website.

The company's Policy on Sustainable Timber and Wood-Based Products was downloaded.

Ethical Consumer ranked companies for their timber sourcing policies according to the ten topics listed below. A best rating would cover six of the following topics:
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.
Lidl's policy stated "We are committed to ensuring that by 2020, 100% of the wood and timber used within our product range, as well as all pulp and fibre-based packaging, is from either verified recycled and/or from FSC and/or PEFC certified sources." This was stated to extend to promotional materials and charcoal. This was considered to have fulfilled criteria 1, 4 and 6.
"Since 2013, the EU Timber Trade Regulation (EUTR) has been in force, which prohibits the import of illegally harvested timber and products made from it into the EU. We fully comply with its legal requirements and due diligence obligations." It also provided information about its due diligence system for this. This was considered to have met requirement 2 and 3.
The company's Sustainability Report 2017-18 stated "All of our marketing leaflets, magazines, customer receipts, bakery bags, product stickers, in-store woodwork and office paper are now made using pulp from either verified recycled sources or those certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification". As the company was using recycled wood and paper it was considered to have met requirement 9.
It did not discuss tropical hardwood (7), did not appear to be a member of any multi stakeholder initiatives (8) nor did it provide the current percentage of FSC certified timber.
As Lidl met 6 of the 10 requirements it received Ethical Consumer's best rating for its timber sourcing policy.

Reference: (2020)

In November 2020, 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 2019, however, this only covered its operations in Germany and was rated seperately under the company Lidl Stiftung.

Lidl UK's policy stated "We source 100% palm (kernel) oil for our own brand food products, from RSPO certified segregated sources.

We source 100% of palm (kernel) oil for our non-food products, from RSPO certified mass balance supply chains, where technically possible."

The policy did not state whether not this commitment also applied to palm oil derivatives.

While the policy committed to sourcing 100% palm (kernel) oil from segregated sources for food products, it was not known what proportion of the total palm oil use this represented when combined with non-food products. Therefore a nominal figure of 50% was assumed for the purposes of this rating.

The company lost marks due to not disclosing volumes or having a group wide commitment (as the report appeared only to apply to Lidl UK's operations). It was not conducting any additional positive initiatives regarded as significant and it did not disclose its suppliers.

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

Reference: (2020)