In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched the Aldi website for information about the company's policy towards genetically modified ingredients.

The company's website contained the following statement:

"We understand that GM food is a sensitive issue for our customers which is why GM ingredients and derivatives are not permitted in our own label food products.

"In line with EU regulations and the UK market, our policy does not prohibit the use of GM ingredients in animal feed. We will continue to monitor GM developments and emerging scientific evidence to inform our sourcing and labelling policies and will update these as appropriate."

As Aldi did not exclude the use of GM ingredients in animal feed the company lost half a mark under the Controversial Technologies category.

Reference:

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

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer searched Aldi South Group website for a cotton sourcing policy.

The company's International Buying Policy for Cotton was downloaded. This document outlined the company's target to source 100% sustainable cotton in the future:

"By 2025, we will [...] require the cotton used for our own-brand 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) 100/blended• Cotton made in Africa (CmiA)• Better Cotton Initiative (BCI)"

The company was not a signatory to RSN but had a detailed public commitment regarding sourcing cotton from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan:

"We prohibit our business partners from using cotton sourced from countries where cultivation and harvesting are systematically associated with human rights violations. For example, ALDI has contractually prohibited the use of cotton grown in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan for the production of its merchandise."

As a result of its policy, the company retained full marks in the Human Rights category due to the commitment not to source from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Although the target to source 100% of its cotton from certified sustainable sources was commendable, due to the fact this target was not yet attained, Aldi South Group was marked down under the Pollution & Toxics and Controversial Technology categories for the reasons outlined below.

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

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. 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.

Reference:

cr.aldisouthgroup.com (30 January 2019)

In December 2019, Ethical Consumer viewed an article on the BananaLink website titled 'Aldi facing mounting pressure from LatAm banana supply countries over price cut plans' and dated to 31 October 2018. The article stated:

"Germany-headquartered discount retail chain Aldi is facing widespread condemnation from Latin American banana-producing countries over its plans to lower pricing by around a dollar in 2019. Industry associations from Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Guatemala have all expressed anger, saying the move could cause serious issues.

"Earlier this month the Ecuadorian banana industry wrote a letter signed by 31 organizations slamming the retailer’s plans, following which Costa Rican’s Corbana, Colombia’s Augura and Guatemala’s APIB also made their complaints heard. They say that further lowering the price of an already-inexpensive fruit would hurt the banana industry economically and socially...

"Alistair Smith, international coordinator at U.K.-based non-profit Banana Link, told Fresh Fruit Portal that these plans don’t consider “the true costs of production and don’t take into account the internalization of costs, such as paying decent wages in countries where the gap is huge, or investments in environmental improvements.”

"The latest association to voice its opposition to Aldi’s price cuts was Action Alliance for Sustainability in Bananas (ABNB), a German organization that brings together representatives from trade, retail and politics as well as from consumer protection, civil society, and trade unions in the banana industry. “The ABNB supports this appeal [responsibility throughout the whole supply chain] because sustainable production also requires coverage for the costs of social and environmental standards, and this means that banana producers must have sufficient economic leeway for sustainable production,” it said in a Monday statement...

"“The ABNB stresses the absolute need to improve the incomes of small-scale farmers and wages of producers and plantation workers, to raise social standards and to invest in environmental protection and biodiversity conservation,” it said."

The company lost half a mark under Anti-Social Finance for enforcing poor terms on small suppliers.

Reference:

Aldi facing mounting pressure from LatAm banana supply countries over price cut plans (31 October 20

In November 2020, Ethical Consumer viewed Siepmann Stiftung's family tree on the corporate database D&B Hoovers. It had a number of subsidiaries in jurisdiction considered by Ethical Consumer to be tax havens. This included Ireland, Hong Kong and Switzerland. The subsidiaries in Ireland and Switzerland were all branches. The subsidiaries in Hong Kong were 'Aldi Sourcing Asia Limited' and 'Ado Solutions Hong Kong ltd.' It was unclear whether these subsidiaries were serving the local population.

An internet search using the search terms “Aldi tax policy statement country” found Aldi's UK tax strategy, which stated: "When entering into commercial transactions, ALDI seeks to take advantage of available tax incentives, reliefs and exemptions in line with, and in the spirit of, tax legislation. ALDI does not undertake tax planning unrelated to such commercial transactions."

No country-by-country financial information or reporting (CBCR), nor clear public tax statement confirming that it was this company’s policy not to engage in tax avoidance activity or to use tax havens for tax avoidance purposes was found, nor did the company provide a narrative explanation for what each group entity located in a tax haven is for, and how it is not being used for purposes of tax minimisation.

As a result of having two or more subsidiaries, excluding branches serving the local population, in a jurisdiction considered to be a tax haven at the time of writing, Siepman Stiftung recieved Ethical Consumer's middle rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies and lost half a mark under Tax Conduct.

Reference:

Generic Hoovers ref (2020)