Sustainability in definitions

Terms such as 'sustainability', 'biodiversity' or 'animal welfare' are not meaningless buzz words for us. Because we want to be as transparent as possible, we have provided a definition of what certain sustainability terms mean to us, how we interpret them and to where our scope reaches.

  • AMCRA (Antimicrobial Consumption and Resistance in Animals) is the knowledge centre for antibiotic use and resistance in animals and formulates recommendations to reduce the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

    AMCRA has established a colour code according to the critical importance of that antibiotic in human and veterinary medicine. Inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance, which endangers public health.

    • The yellow products are the first-choice medicines.
    • The orange products may only be administered after an additional examination supporting the diagnosis.
    • The red products, on the other hand, are only used after additional laboratory research has supported the diagnosis and when an antibacterial sensitivity test has shown that there are no yellow or orange alternatives.
  • Meaning of ‘agriculture’: the use of land for the production of crops and animals for human or animal consumption.

    We speak of a 'Belgian chain project' when there is a direct relationship between Colruyt Group as a retailer and a Belgian partner in the primary link of the agro-food chain. This chain can be complemented by other partners from other links of the agro-food chain.

  • Meaning of ‘animal welfare’: the physical and emotional quality of life of living animals, as experienced by them, throughout their lives.

    What are the four main pillars of animal welfare?

    • Normal behaviour
    • Good health
    • Good food
    • Good housing


    Our animal welfare efforts cover all animals with a central nervous system in our value chains that are fit for human consumption. Both farmed animals (agriculture, aquaculture) and wild animals (including by-products). We focus primarily on the products of our private labels.

  • Meaning of 'atmosphere': the atmosphere is a relatively thin layer of air around the earth.

    Greenhouse gases such as CO₂, methane, nitrous oxide and water vapour occur naturally in the atmosphere. They partially retain the heat from the sun and thus determine the temperature on earth. The gas composition of the atmosphere is therefore crucial for life on earth.

    Our efforts for a cleaner atmosphere include both the challenges of climate change (due to higher concentrations of greenhouse gases) and air pollution.

  • BCC

    Meaning of ‘BCC’: The Better Chicken Commitment (BCC) stands for stricter criteria for the welfare of 'meat' chickens, such as:

    • A stocking density of 30 kg/m2 or less. This comes down to a maximum of about 15 chickens per m2 and therefore 40% more space for the animals.
    • The chickens receive daylight, with minimum 50 lux light intensity.
    • Choosing a stronger breed of chicken – validated by BCC and RSPCA – which can grow in an animal-friendly way.
    • At least two metres of usable perches and two picking substrates (grains, straw bales) per 1,000 chickens. This stimulates their natural behaviour.
    • No cages or multi-level systems.
    • Etc.


    Observance of the standards is verified by means of audits by third parties and an annual public reporting.

  • BCI
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    Meaning of BCI: the Better Cotton Initiative non-profit organisation  works towards more sustainable cotton production worldwide, in cooperation with all stakeholders. Companies may use the label on their products if they sell more than 50% certified cotton.

    The organisation focuses on both economic, ecological and social aspects. Its main aim is to make a difference for the cotton farmers themselves, in part through: 

    • Strict criteria for pesticide use
      Attention for the use of water, soil and natural habitat
      Better working conditions
      Training programmes for the farmers
      Increasing productivity
      Regular on-the-spot checks.
  • Meaning of ‘biodiversity’: the diversity of living organisms on earth. Biodiversity comprises all types of plants, animals, micro-organisms, genes and ecosystems.

    What are the principal reasons for the loss of biodiversity?

    • Changes in land and sea use
    • Over-exploitation of certain species
    • Pollution
    • Climate change
    • Invasive alien species


    To restore nature and biodiversity, these problems need to be addressed.

  • Meaning of ‘decent work’: work is decent if it meets the following criteria:

    • Voluntarily
    • Wage to be able to provide a decent living
    • Respect for fundamental labour rights
    • Social protection
    • Social dialogue
    • Social equality between men and women


    Meaning of ‘workable work’: work is workable if it meets the following criteria:

    • Meaningful: it fits your personal dreams, goals and ideals
    • Significant: you create an added value
    • Fitting: it suits your capacities, age and living circumstances
  • Der Blaue Engel is a German label for ecological products, including paper. The label guarantees that production is environmentally-friendly and lists specific criteria for each type of product, such as printer paper and tissue paper.

    The label is embedded in European legislation and is managed by the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, the German Environmental Administration, a multi-stakeholder jury and the German Institute for Health, Quality and Labelling (RAL).

    Monitoring is conducted by independent inspection bodies.

  • Meaning of ‘energy’:  a physical quantity representing the ability to do work, expressed in Joules.

    Which types of energy exist?

    • Thermal energy: heat and cooling
    • Electrical energy
    • Light energy
    • Magnetic energy
    • Nuclear energy
    • Kinetic energy
    • Chemical energy
    • Elastic energy
    • Electromagnetic energy
    • Sound energy
    • Gravitational energy
    • Mass
    • Radiation
    • Etc.


    Meaning of ‘green energy’: green energy – also referred to as sustainable energy – is energy obtained from renewable, inexhaustible energy sources that produce no CO2 and have little or no environmental impact.

    Which green energy sources exist?

    • Solar power
    • Wind energy
    • Hydro-electric
    • Terrestrial heat
    • Biomass
  • LP_image_eu-bio.jpg

    Meaning of ‘European organic label’: products with the green logo of the European organic label meet all European standards for organic farming, processing and sales.

    • They come from organic farming; without the use of artificial fertilisers, chemical pesticides or genetically modified organisms. And only with approved additives.
    • The EU organic label also pays attention to animal welfare  and the general principles of environmental care. For example, organic chickens are kept in separate stables with a maximum of 10 chickens per square metre. During the day, they can also scratch around outside where every chicken has 4 square metres of space. In addition, their feed is 100% vegetable, organically grown. 


    Products carrying the label are strictly audited by independent audit organisations before they are put on the store shelves. This certificate is included in European legislation. It guarantees the organic origin of a product in other European countries too.

  • The Fairtrade label helps consumers recognise products with fair trade ingredients - and the production, processing and sale of which therefore comply with Fairtrade standards. These standards are designed to ensure democratic organisational structures, environmental protection and better working conditions.

    The label also offers producer cooperatives the opportunity to receive a more stable and fairer price and to establish sustainable trade relationships. Both farmers and workers on plantations receive an additional Fairtrade premium that they can invest in community projects.

  • The Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient (FSI) label is used to identify a single ingredient that is produced and sold under Fairtrade conditions. The company or brand then commits to Fairtrade through the 'Purchase of a Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient' (FSI) model. Only this one specific ingredient must be Fairtrade certified in this composite product. For example: the Fairtrade cashews in a nut mix, or the Fairtrade roses in a bouquet of flowers. Sometimes there can also be two or more ingredients.

  • Meaning of ‘food loss’: every situation in which food fit for human consumption is lost in the food chain - from harvest to consumption.

    Colruyt Group takes many preventative measures to avoid food loss. Any food left on our shelves is given a useful purpose as much as possible through social organisations, is sold at a reduced price or processed into other products.

  • The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC®) is an international non-profit organisation founded in 1993 by forest owners, wood and paper companies, social movements and environmental organisations. The FSC's aim is sustainable forest management worldwide, according to strict social, ecological and economic criteria.

    The FSC quality label guarantees responsible sourcing from sustainably managed forests and/or recycling. Timber and derived products or other forest products with an FSC claim can only do so if the processing chain from forest to end product is also checked in terms of traceability.

    The strict requirements of the FSC label and its credibility are widely recognised. The FSC label is the only label of its kind that is supported by environmental organisations such as WWF and Greenpeace, as well as by social and economic players. In terms of the number of companies actively working with FSC certification, the FSC system is the largest, both in Belgium and worldwide.

  • LP_image_logo-gots.jpg

    Meaning of GOTS: The Global Organic Textile Standard is the global standard for organic (and sustainable) textile. Independent inspection bodies ensure compliance with the standards throughout the chain, from the harvesting of the raw materials through processing and production to labelling and distribution. The GOTS label guarantees, among other things, that:  

    • production complies with the social standards of the International Labour Organisation,
    • the end products are completely free of pesticides, insecticides and hazardous chemicals,
    • the end products comply with qualitative criteria such as resistance to creep and colour fastness.


    GOTS labels exist for products made with at least 95% certified organic fibres, and for products with at least 70% of such fibres.

  • Meaning of ‘greenhouse gases’: the gases in a planet's atmosphere that can absorb and re-emit heat.  

    • Greenhouse effect: greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are naturally present in the earth's atmosphere. And this is a good thing, because otherwise it would be much colder here. The gases regulate the temperature on earth. They let through the sun's rays and partially retain the sun's heat. This is how they make life possible, as we know it today.
    • The problem: in recent decades, more greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere. Due to the use of fossil fuels, for example. But also due to logging and increased livestock farming. More greenhouse gases means more heat retained. The result? The temperature on earth increases. And our climate is changing as a result: sea levels are rising, the weather is becoming more extreme with floods and heat waves, etc.
  • Meaning of the ‘Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol)’: internationally recognised method for companies and organisations to calculate their greenhouse gas emissions at three levels.

    • Scope 1: direct emissions caused by our own building-, transport- and production-related activities.
    • Scope 2: indirect emissions released when generating the energy we purchase.
    • Scope 3: indirect emissions that occur in the value chain For example: emissions from external production, customers going to our stores, waste processing, etc.


    Colruyt Group drew up a CO2 balance sheet for the first time in 2008. We have been working on reducing our impact on the climate for years, always with a view to long-term results. Find out what our reduction programme is all about.

  • Meaning of ‘health’: personal well-being on a physical, mental and social level. A healthy and safe living environment also has a direct impact on an individual's health.

  • Meaning of ‘international chain project’: an agricultural project in which Colruyt Group works with partners from all links of the agro-food chain - and specifically family farmers' organisations in developing regions - to establish a new or more sustainable chain. NGOs follow up the project and steer it in the right direction.

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    Meaning of ‘RSPO’: The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) is an international organisation committed to making the palm oil chain more sustainable.

    The organisation issues a certificate to producers who comply with the guidelines, such as:

    • No deforestation of primeval forests or protected areas
    • Sustainably managed plantations  by using less pesticides and artificial fertiliser, among other things
    • A minimal impact on ecosystems such as the habitats of orangutans and tigers
    • Consultation  with the local population
    • Correct working conditions, with respect for the farmers' rights. E.g. a guaranteed minimum wage and a ban on forced labour, child labour and discrimination


    Four forms of certification exist within the RSPO certification:

    • ‘Identity preserved’: sustainable palm oil from one known certified source and segregated from ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain.
    • ‘Segregation’: sustainable palm oil from various certified sources and segregated from ordinary palm oil throughout the supply chain.
    • ‘Mass balance’: sustainable palm oil that is mixed with ordinary palm oil during storage and transport.
    • ‘Book and claim’: palm oil that is not sustainably produced, but is compensated by the purchase of RSPO-certificates (credits). This is how producers of sustainable palm oil receive financial support.
  • Meaning of ‘raw material’: materials used in a process to make or manufacture something.

    At Colruyt Group we make a distinction between five types of raw materials:

    • Raw materials for consumer products (both food and non-food)
    • Raw materials for packaging (both in our own logistics and in product packaging)
    • Building and furnishing materials
    • Materials for use
    • Waste and residual streams


    Our efforts in the field of raw materials cover all these types of raw materials, both for our own products and those of other brands.

    Energy sources (such as natural gas, oil, wind, sun) and water are not included under 'raw materials'.

  • Meaning of ‘learning’: acquiring specific knowledge and specific skills.

    Meaning of ‘developing’: a behavioural and attitude change thanks to a growing maturity level.

    Colruyt Group believes in continuous learning and development, always and everywhere.

  • Meaning of ‘net-zero emission’: the sum of the greenhouse gases emitted on the one hand and the CO2 removed from the atmosphere on the other hand, is zero.

    By combining more emission reductions and compensating the remaining emissions through forest planting. Colruyt Group wants to achieve a net-zero emission from 2030 within scope 1 and 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol.

    ‘Net-zero emission’ is similar to ‘zero carbon footprint and ‘CO2 neutral’. However, these terms do not yet have a broadly supported definition and many companies add their own nuances to them. 'Net-zero emissions' reflects our choice to describe our ambition objectively.

  • Meaning of ‘organisation environmental footprint’: a methodology for calculating an organisation's environmental footprint, based on the life cycle assessment and the 16 environmental impact categories of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF).

    This methodology was developed on the initiative of the European Commission and in cooperation with Colruyt Group to bring more clarity to the multitude of sustainability claims.

  • PEFC stands for ‘Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes’ and is an internationally certified label for sustainable forestry. The label promotes responsible and sustainable logging and guarantees, among other things: 

    • no illegal logging
    • traceability throughout the entire chain
    • verified origin: the wood comes from a sustainably managed forest or consists of recycled material
    • collaboration with forest owners, users, industry, environmental organisations, scientists, etc. 
  • Meaning of ‘product environmental footprint’: a methodology to calculate the environmental footprint of a product, based on the life cycle assessment. The result is a product score based on 16 environmental impact categories:

    • Adverse effect on the ozone layer
    • Ecotoxicity of fresh water
    • Eutrophication of the soil
    • Eutrophication of fresh water
    • Eutrophication of salt water
    • Particulate matter
    • Photochemical ozone creation
    • Use of fossil raw materials
    • Use of raw materials: minerals and metal
    • Ionising radiation
    • Climate change
    • Land use
    • Toxic for people: carcinogenic
    • Toxic for people: non-carcinogenic
    • Acidification
    • Water consumption


    This methodology was developed on the initiative of the European Commission to bring more clarity to the multitude of sustainability claims and labels and to provide consumers with uniform and transparent information.

  • The Round Table on Responsible Soy is an international platform that developed an international standard for responsible soy production: the RTRS-certification. We have been a member of this platform since 2015.

    The RTRS-standard guarantees an environmentally-friendly, socially correct and economic cost-effective soy production. Soy production is certified and every stakeholder in the supply chain is monitored and verified by internationally accredited certification bodies. The certificate is valid for five years with mandatory annual audits.

    What are the criteria for RTRS-certification?

    • Prohibition on deforestation and the conversion of ecologically valuable habitats (e.g. grasslands and wetlands with a high conservation value). 
    • Observance of the law.
    • Preservation and – where necessary – recovery of riverbank vegetation areas.
    • Respect for property claims of land.
    • Good agricultural practices and limited use of pesticides.
    • Good management practices.
    • Fair working conditions.
  • Rainforest Alliance is an international label for sustainable agriculture, established in 1987. The label only applies to food products, such as bananas, coffee, tea, chocolate and palm oil. The label guarantees good working conditions and a limited impact on the environment. It also pays attention to biodiversity.

    The label is managed and independently checked by Rainforest Alliance. Rainforest Alliance meets the standards laid down by Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN). Farmers that meet this standard receive the Rainforest Alliance label.

    SAN promotes efficient and productive agriculture, the preservation of biodiversity and a sustainable lifestyle through ecological and social criteria.

  • Meaning of ‘society’: A population that forms a social unit.

    Our society efforts relate to all the communities of people on which we have a direct and indirect impact. This ranges from the cities and towns where our production, distribution, administration and sales activities are located to the communities where we are indirectly present through (the purchase of) our products.

  • Meaning of ‘specifications’: Specifications provide a precise description of an order.

    Colruyt Group uses specifications to lay down quality and sustainability criteria that our suppliers and producers must respect. For more animal welfare, for example. To verify the application of our specifications, we work with independent inspection body Quality Control.

  • Meaning of ‘sustainable mobility’: sustainable mobility is accessible to everyone and guarantees the accessibility of people, organisations, products and services, thus contributing to a higher quality of life by organising travel efficiently and safely, with respect for health, the environment and the climate.

  • Meaning of ‘water’: a colourless and tasteless liquid, the molecules of which consist of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom.

    For retailers, water is both a raw material for many products and production processes and a consumable product in its own right.