What were Delhaize Group’s biggest sustainability achievements in 2015?
Frans Muller We had a very good year, and we’ve made significant progress toward our 2020 Sustainability Ambition. We have clearer definitions for our 2020 goals than ever before and we’ve communicated those across the company. For example, last year was the first time that all officers of the company had their annual incentive bonuses tied to sustainability goals.
These ambitious commitments—and the hard work of all our associates—helped us reclaim a spot on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) this year.
I’m particularly proud of our work around sustainable seafood. Our partnerships with WWF, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership are helping us deepen our understanding of our seafood sourcing—and improve it. As of the end of 2015, we know the fishery or farm of origin for over 85% of our private brand seafood products—fresh, frozen, and canned. The next step is ensuring that all seafood we sell meets our sustainability requirements, something our two largest operating companies, Delhaize Belgium and Delhaize America, have already achieved.
Marc Croonen We also emphasized associate wellbeing and professional development in 2015. Each company established a clear health and wellbeing program for their associates. We implemented new customer service training programs at our banners in the U.S. and Serbia last year, which enhanced the skills and professional development opportunities for tens of thousands of our associates.
Delhaize Group had a strong financial year. How have sustainability initiatives helped support financial performance?
Frans Muller Our financial performance goes hand-in-hand with our sustainability targets. Whether it’s traveling fewer kilometers with our trucks, donating unsold food or reducing refrigerant leaks and energy consumption, those efforts contribute directly to a more efficient company and a more resilient balance sheet. Other programs, such as those that invest in our people or improve the sustainability of our supply chain, create a stable platform for future financial success.
Last year we increased sales and stabilized or gained market share in all of our markets, which I think is also related to our sustainability work. Many of our customers are also passionate about these issues, so our efforts resonate with them. For example, our strong results in the U.S. were in part due to our introduction of Food Lion’s “Easy, Fresh & Affordable” strategy, which included wider selection of organic products and efforts to reduce food waste.
We had a very good year, and we’ve made significant progress toward our 2020 Sustainability Ambition. We have clearer definitions for our 2020 goals than ever before and we’ve communicated those across the company.
President & CEO, Delhaize Group
What sustainability trends are you noticing globally, and how has the company responded?
Frans Muller The UN adopted a broad set of Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 that addressed issues including hunger relief, gender inequality, and responsible production and consumption. These are global priorities, and as a global corporation we want to do our part to help achieve them. For example, the UN called for a 50% reduction in food waste over the next 15 years. In response, we’ve emphasized food waste reduction programs in all of our companies and joined with our peers in the Consumer Goods Forum to make our own public commitment.
In addition, the COP21 negotiations held in Paris last year highlighted the role corporations play in tackling climate change. We are focused both on reducing emissions in our own operations and on working closely with our private brand suppliers to reduce climate impact in our supply chain, through efforts such as our commitments to source deforestation-free palm oil and wood fibers.
Marc Croonen Supply chain transparency also is an issue of growing concern, following high-profile cases such as the use of forced labor on fishing boats off the coast of Thailand. In response, we’re taking concrete steps to enforce specific requirements for human rights protections with our suppliers. For example, we hosted a workshop with sustainability leaders from our operating companies to discuss human rights in our supply chain and determine what we can do beyond an audit to ensure workers are respected. We also are partnering with other retailers to develop the most ethical supply chains possible across the industry.
What are some of the biggest challenges Delhaize Group faces in achieving its 2020 Sustainability Ambition?
Frans Muller Obtaining the transparency that Marc highlights is one. This can be more difficult when working with our small and mid-sized suppliers that might not have the resources to meet multiple certifications and standards. In these cases, we provide guidance and additional support to help them meet our sustainability requirements. Our work with sustainable seafood is a great example: Many of our smaller seafood suppliers are unable to maintain expensive certifications. So we’re moving toward examining their practices directly and pairing them with experts who can advise them.
How do you plan to maintain your sustainability focus after the planned merger with Ahold?
Marc Croonen The merger gives us the opportunity to combine our initiatives with Ahold’s strong sustainability efforts to make an even bigger impact. The 2 companies share many of the same core values. For example, Ahold has long prioritized healthy living, community wellbeing, people and the environment. Those priorities closely mirror the 4 focus areas of our 2020 Sustainability Ambition. Working together allows us take advantage of our combined skills, scale and values to drive innovation and change.
We hosted a workshop with sustainability leaders from our operating companies to discuss human rights in our supply chain and determine what we can do beyond an audit to ensure workers are respected.
Chief Human Resources Officer - EVP HR, Int. Comms & Sustainability, Delhaize Group