12 million trees to capture our remaining emissions

With an extensive reduction programme, we have already drastically reduced our greenhouse gas emissions in recent years. By planting 12 million trees, we also want to capture at least the equivalent of our remaining emissions by 2030.

This initiative contributes to our objectives regarding

Updated on 27/07/2023

En route to net zero emission

Our initiatives on green electricity, cooling and heating optimisation and sustainable transport have already resulted in a huge reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions. In the future, we will focus on a combination of further emission reduction on the one hand and CO2 capture on the other, whereby we will capture at least the equivalent of our remaining emissions through forest planting. In other words, we are opting for capturing our own emissions instead of buying carbon credits. The aim is to achieve  a net-zero emission from 2030 within scope 1 and 2 of the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. The sum of, on the one hand, the greenhouse gases we emit (+) and, on the other hand, the CO2 we capture (-), will be 0.

Colruyt Group's climate plan: a complementary approach with both reduction and compensation measures.

Koen Baetens, director Colruyt Group Technics & Real Estate
Even the most advanced technology cannot ensure zero emissions. We continue to reduce our emissions, but were also looking for other solutions: CO₂ capture by planting trees.

Our emissions and carbon capture

Realised direct emissions (tonnes of CO₂eq)
Expected direct emissions, with the current measures (tonnes of CO₂eq)
Expected CO₂ capture by means of afforestation project (tonnes)

As soon as we start planting trees in 2022, the project will increasingly contribute to CO2 capture. And by 2030 it will capture more CO2 than we emit. At the end of 2023, our suppliers Lotus Bakeries and Duvel Moortgat joined this afforestation project. With this collaboration, we also offset part of their CO₂ emissions, which contributes to scope 3 of our plan for fewer CO₂ emissions.

Why plant trees?

Planting trees is currently one of the most effective measures against climate change. Trees capture carbon dioxide and store it in their biomass (wood, leaves or roots) as well as improve soil and groundwater quality and increase biodiversity. 

Project location Trees purify the air. They capture CO₂ by photosynthesis and produce O₂ and can also capture other toxic gases.

Taking into account the various tree species we will plant, after 10 years the forest will absorb an estimated quantity of 10 tonnes of CO₂ per hectare each year, or 100,000 tonnes in total. Comparison, a Belgian person emits 8.34 tonnes of CO₂ on average each year.

INFOGRAPHIC: 12 million trees are able to capture an estimated quantity of 100,000 tonnes of CO2.

Why in the Democratic Republic of Congo?

To make a real impact with forest planting, a large area is needed. 10,000 hectares in this case, or about 2.3 times the size of the Sonian Forest. This is not evident in densely populated Belgium, but it is possible in the green heart of Africa: the Democratic Republic of Congo. This country is an ideal location for several reasons:

  • Additional forest planting means we can strengthen that ecosystem even more.
  • DRC has its own national tree planting programme, a call launched at the end of 2020 to plant one billion trees by 2023.  

The project location is currently subject to high levels of over-exploitation through logging and burning.

Processing coffee beans in Kivu Our current coffee project in Kivu shows the force of corporate sustainability.
  • Colruyt Group has already had several positive experiences with projects in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Our focus is also on these projects. 
    • In Kivu, in the east of the country, we launched a sustainable chain project in 2016 with a correct price and guaranteed sales for as many as 2,200 small coffee farmers.
    • Since 2018, our Collibri Foundation has also been focusing on   training and coaching of young farmers.
    • Colex, Colruyt Group's export department, already supplies many Congolese supermarkets with fresh and dry products that are otherwise hard to find in the country.
  • The specific project location Kwango also has different strengths:
    • There is sufficient space for the forestry project without causing conflicts with the activities of the local population.
    • Kwango is relatively easily accessible thanks to the proximity of a national access road and the international airport N'djili in Kinshasa. The project location is close to the provincial capital of Kenge.
    • Various local villages are willing to help with the project. This way, we can also boost local employment.
Kwango is in the south west of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The province borders neighbouring country Angola (in the south) and the provinces of Kwilu, Kasaï, Congo Central and Kinshasa (respectively to the north, east, west and northwest). The province of Kwango has almost 5.2 million inhabitants and covers an area of about 90,000 km²: almost three times the size of Belgium.
The experience garden of Okay Rotselaar has a biodiverse lawn, flower and clover meadow, bee hotel, dead hedge and seating area. A boost for biodiversity and passers-by. More nature on and around our buildings: from green roofs and façades to this experience garden at Okay Rotselaar.

Also more green in Belgium

  • With  an average of 725 m² 'green' per site we invest more than the average retailer in the 'landscaping' of stores, offices and distribution centres. This is good for an average of 317 trees and 2,603 m² woodland a year.
  • Along the Veugeleer in Halle we planted about 3,000 new trees.
  • Invariably we go for forest planting as compensation for deforestation, for example following the construction of a new site. Only native species are planted and the surface area is twice as big as the deforested area.

How do we work with the local population?

The local anchoring of the forestry project is essential. That is why, together with our Congolese partners, we examined how we can provide an added value for the local population. Result? We will…

  • for at least three years provide employment  to a few hundred inhabitants
  • provide infrastructure: schools, water sources, a bridge and a medical post
  • make sustainable energy  accessible via solar panels
  • plant trees which can (indirectly) serve as a source of food for the local population: fruit, caterpillars, etc.
  • further stimulate agricultural production on the spot - including a honey farm and a manioc processing plant - to make it easier for the local population to provide their own food, and possibly commercialise these products in the long term.
Inhabitants of Kwango With a lasting cooperation with the local population and support in the long term we want to make an essential difference, for people and the planet.
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