Colruyt Group’s approach to biodiversity
Biodiversity and why it’s so important
Biodiversity, it’s quite a mouthful. Actually, it simply refers to the earth’s wide variety of plant and animal species. Biodiversity is crucial for oxygen, clean water, fertile soil and a stable climate, but also for our food, building materials, raw materials for clothing, fuel and medicines. We can only exist when nature is in balance. It is therefore essential that we, as a large company, are also doing our bit for the planet.
What are we currently doing?
We are working on biodiversity at two different levels. On the one hand, biodiversity is strongly linked to the processed raw materials in the products we sell. By using more sustainable options with regard to raw materials, we are having an impact on biodiversity worldwide. On the other hand, our buildings, stores, distribution centres and even our wind turbines have a significant impact on the local ecosystem. We try to protect and, where possible, restore those fragile ecosystems, with both large and small initiatives.
Each raw material is certified
By choosing to use certified raw materials, we aim to reduce the impact of our products on biodiversity. To do this, we are working together with various certification organisations. Many of our products therefore carry a sustainability label, showing that the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity has been taken into account during the production of these products.
- We only work with fisheries that are committed to keeping fish stocks at a sustainable level and that use ethical fishing methods. As a result, in 2018, we offered the largest number of certified or verified fish products in Belgium in our stores. Approximately 90 % of our wild caught fish, shellfish and crustaceans is MSC certified or ILVO verified (excluding prepared and canned seafood). 66.7 % of our canned wild fish products is MSC certified. 86 % of our farmed fish, shellfish and crustaceans carries the ASC label or is labelled as organic.
- Wood, charcoal and paper carry the labels for sustainable forestry and paper production, such as FSC, PEFC and Der Blaue Engel. All our paper products and charcoal are certified. For our wood products, we are at 97.7 %.
Click here for more information about our wood and paper certification.
Click here for more information about the sustainable charcoal of Boni Selection.
- Cotton production has a major environmental impact, partly due to the use of pesticides and the enormous amount of water the process requires. This has serious consequences for local biodiversity, all too obviously evident from the shrinking of the water level in the Aral Sea. That’s why we are increasingly using the GOTS label, a certification that stands for more sustainable and organically produced cotton.
- 99 % of our coffee, 97 % of our coffee-containing products and 90 % our cacao-containing products are certified by labels such as UTZ and Rainforest Alliance. These labels protect biodiversity by banning deforestation and allowing fewer pesticides and fertilisers.
- Soya is a widely used raw material in animal feed, which has a significant impact on ecosystems in South America. By using the RTRS certification, we are increasing the sustainability of the amount of soya used in our meat and dairy production chains. Because it is not easy for small farmers to produce soya according to RTRS standards, we are working with the Belgian NGO Trias and the Brazilian organisation Cresol to help them during the certification process.
- 97 % of the palm oil in our private label products comes from sustainably managed palm oil plantations that have a minimal impact on ecosystems. That palm oil is certified with the RSPO label, which bans deforestation and encourages good agricultural practices. We buy RSPO certificates for the remaining 3 %.
- Our stores sell many products with the EU organic label. This label guarantees that no artificial or synthetic pesticides are used in production. Of course, this is good for fauna and flora, both on and in the soil.
Each store has its own habitat
We also want to create high-quality habitats for fauna and flora closer to home, on our own sites. At our stores, but also at our distribution centres, offices and even our offshore wind turbines. We strive to fill or use the available space for biodiversity, to provide more native greenery, and we are taking initiatives to attract native animal species. Naturally, these initiatives are always integrated with the existing environment.
Since 2019, we have been mapping our impact on biodiversity before every renovation or construction. A useful tool for this is the biodiversity test, which we have developed together with Biotoop. This instrument, based on scientific guidelines, calculates and monitors the biodiversity value of a planned renovation, a new development, project or design. We try to get the highest score possible for each site, partly by adopting the following initiatives.
If we have an area that is bigger than 100 m², which is not being used, we can create a flower meadow. However, if this is an area that is regularly frequented, we create a biodiverse lawn consisting of 95 % grassed area and 5 % flowers.
When we plant a public garden or hedge, we always use indigenous shrubs and trees. We mainly use deciduous trees - up to 6 metres high - which appear on the climate trees list. These trees are well suited to deal with climate change and extreme weather conditions. Where possible, we use traditional plant varieties that have fallen out of use. We especially focus on indigenous varieties: animals or plants that are native to a specific area or region.
We maintain this greenery using a minimal amount of pesticides. In the areas around the Bio-Planet stores, we have completely stopped using pesticides. Even on our other sites, our landscape contractors prefer using sustainable techniques, e.g. weeding by hand or using a brush.
A vertical garden or green façade is a wall that is completely or partially covered with greenery. It is possible to combine different types of perennials and grasses to create a wealth of biodiversity. We currently have 35 green façades covering a total area of 970 m², all over the country. Where possible, we also attach small birdhouses to these green walls.
Being kind to animals
In addition to birdhouses, we are also introducing many other initiatives to attract indigenous species. We often build insect hotels near the flower meadows. We create dead hedges, which offer a perfect nesting place for small animals such as spiders, beetles, mice, hedgehogs and even birds. These dead hedges are full of insects, which in turn feed the birds. We build wadis: man-made gullies where rainwater can slowly drain away after heavy rainfall and replenish groundwater reserves. Our 20 wadis (collectively measuring a total of 2,161 m²) are home to toads, frogs and salamanders.
Our outside lighting is directed downwards as much as possible, in order not to disturb bats and insects. The outdoor lighting at our Dassenveld distribution centre will be converted to LED lighting with built-in reflectors, reducing stray light to almost zero. This means that any disturbance we make to the natural habitat of plants and animals is minimal.
- Together with the City of Halle and Sport Vlaanderen, we have constructed four new walking trails in Halle. The trails take walkers past an ornamental garden, a flower meadow, a ‘pick-your-own’ garden, an orchard with traditional local fruit varieties and an area specially designed for vulnerable biotopes.
- We have planted a new forest of 3,000 trees next to the Hallerbos. This means that many animals, including the tree marten, will have a larger habitat and we are making a specific contribution to the EU’s environmental and biodiversity goals.
What other plans do we have in store for the future?
Our focus will continue to be on increasing the sustainability of our products and the raw materials with which they are made. We will achieve this by extending our collaboration with certification organisations, but also by exploring other avenues to continue reducing our impact on biodiversity.
We have formally confirmed our commitment to creating more greenery on and around our sites in the ‘Green Deal for Companies and Biodiversity’. This is an agreement between the Flemish government and more than 110 partners. Colruyt Group is committed to converting 16.5 hectares of business site to either permanent or temporary greenery by September 2021.
We are currently mapping out the feasibility of the following options to supplement our current initiatives.
- We want our landscape management to be completely pesticide-free.
- The green roofs on 35 of our buildings already create an area of 33,350 m² for mosses, succulents, wild flowers, grasses and herbs. There is great opportunity to extend this to more buildings.
- Our current green façades are usually not soil-bound. The plants take root in a substrate and are watered via a special system. We want to expand this with more soil-bound systems. These systems use climbing plants that have their roots in the earth and therefore extract water and nutrition from the soil.
- A hawthorn based mixed hedge attracts more birds than other hedges and provides more nesting possibilities.
- By choosing to use materials that allow water to permeate and that provide space for vegetation when constructing parking areas, we are helping to improve water management, soil quality and biodiversity.
- Our aim is to plant as much greenery as possible on lots that are temporarily vacant before a construction project starts.