We are avoiding more CO₂ than we emit

Climate neutrality has become the ‘in’ term. There are even companies and organisations out there that claim to have achieved it. We’d like to say straight away that according to the strictest definition, Colruyt Group is not climate neutral. On the other hand, instead of fully offsetting our CO₂ emissions with funding and certificates, we work continuously on innovative projects to reduce those emissions, whilst at the same time, investing in green electricity. And that has paid off. Since 2017, we have been avoiding more CO₂ than we actually emit. Isn’t that nearly the same as climate neutrality? Perhaps, but it is more nuanced than that.

Green electricity and reduced emissions

Firstly, we need to say that renewable energy is one of the main ways in which we reduce our emissions. Eoly is our own green electricity producer, providing for a hefty 31% of our electricity consumption with its wind turbines and solar panels. We also invest in offshore wind energy via Parkwind. Our 60.13% share in Parkwind accounted for 522 gigawatt hours of electricity in 2018. Adding this up with Eoly, you get a total of 590 gigawatt hours of green electricity. At the same time, we are working hard to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in other ways. Since 2016, direct emissions have fallen in absolute terms, thanks to various projects related to energy, mobility, heating and cooling.

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There are reasons why we are not climate neutral.

Climate neutrality is a complex concept. It means not emitting greenhouse gases as part of your activities. Or, if you do, you capture or compensate for these greenhouse gases in another way, for example by planting trees. Yet "climate neutrality" is a concept that is often claimed. At a relatively low cost, companies can purchase certificates to fully offset their CO2 emissions, so that they can then officially claim they are climate neutral.

That's not our way of doing things. Our approach is to resolutely opt in favour of producing renewable energy, which has a direct impact on climate change. In recent decades, we have invested millions of euros in onshore and offshore wind energy, in solar panels and in co-generation. These activities also contribute to the local economy. As a result, our added social value is so much greater than if we were to simply buy certificates.

Or are we actually climate neutral?

To create this graph, we added up Eoly's electricity production and our share in Parkwind's production. We then calculated how many tonnes of CO2 we therefore avoided. This figure was then compared with our direct emissions of greenhouse gases. The resulting graph shows that  since 2017, these two lines have intersected each other.

The CO2 emissions that were avoided thanks to our investments in green energy now exceed our absolute emissions. We therefore avoid more CO2 than we actually emit. According to some definitions, this does indeed mean that we are climate neutral.

Graph showing direct CO₂ emissions and avoided emissions
The graph shows our direct impact on climate change, in absolute values.

Strict target for 2020

Of course, it doesn't stop there. We need to do even better. In 2012, we set ourselves an ambitious target: to reduce our direct CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020 compared to base year 2008, in proportion to turnover. This is for our activities in Belgium, Luxembourg and France. We closely monitored these relative CO2 emissions and monitored the emissions in accordance with the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (scope 1 and 2). As you can see, we are on course and we will soon achieve this objective.

Graph relative greenhouse gas emissions
The graph shows the performance of our relative greenhouse gas emissions. We calculate these by dividing absolute emissions by turnover.

With this initiative, we contribute to the following Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Affordable and clean energy Industry, innovation & infrastructure Climate action