Projects and measures
Group-wide packaging guidelines
A wide variety of packaging is used at all METRO GROUP sales lines on a daily basis. This is necessary to protect products, extend their shelf life, make them recognisable for customers at the point of sale and provide information about them. METRO GROUP has set itself challenging sustainability targets: while it needs to provide the high level of quality and hygiene that customers have come to expect, it is also aiming to reduce the strain on the environment caused by packaging throughout the entire life cycle. In order to meet this challenge, METRO GROUP put group-wide packaging guidelines in place in 2013. In this way, we have established a binding framework for all own-brand product packaging. The guidelines define five areas in which we are implementing measures: avoiding packaging, reducing packaging, utilising return systems, and using both renewable resources and recycled material.
Based on the group guidelines, each sales line has defined processes and measures for its own-brand products. Packaging has been part of METRO Cash & Carry’s overall own-brand strategy since 2013. The company has prepared a technical handbook on the subject of own-brand packaging together with a requirement profile when communicating and negotiating with suppliers. Since April 2014, the life cycle analysis programme Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool (PIQET) has been used to assess the effects of packaging on the environment.
When dealing with its suppliers, Real also uses a specification for products, which defines concrete aspects and targets relating to own-brand packaging. In this way, the company is striving to avoid using plastics such as PVC and PVdC in future. As well as this, low-migration printing inks should be used and transport packaging should have modular dimensions. An accompanying technical handbook with a detailed list of requirements for suppliers will be prepared by the end of the year.
In order to conserve resources, cut down costs and avoid negative effects on the environment, our sales lines proactively work with their suppliers to optimise the packaging of their own-brand products. They design the packaging to use as little material as possible, replace existing material with more environmentally friendly alternatives, opt for packaging that can be used for both transport and in-store presentation, or do away with additional packaging components.
For example, METRO Cash & Carry has been marketing some of its own-brand Horeca Select products in plastic pouches rather than tins since 2012. This reduces the total pallet weight by 34 kilograms, which has a positive effect on transport: as the pallets are significantly lighter, suppliers can load more products onto a single vehicle or use a smaller one. This lowers transport costs, saves on fuel and reduces CO2 emissions.
A METRO Cash & Carry project in France also shows that small changes can have a significant impact. Here, the company has left away the additional cardboard sleeve on its smoked salmon packaging, selling the fish in printed plastic packaging instead. This allows METRO Cash & Carry to save 1.2 tonnes of cardboard every year.
Optimising the sustainability of packaging also means using more environmentally friendly materials to produce it. Accordingly, METRO Cash & Carry now uses plastic sleeves made of chlorine-free polypropylene (PP) for packaging various textiles. Previously, the sleeves consisted of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a chlorinated plastic that releases dioxin when incinerated. With this move, METRO Cash & Carry is helping to avoid these emissions.
Real is also active in optimising the functionality of its packaging. For example, the plastic wrapper used for 500-gram packs of Tip spaghetti is by far the lightest on the market – weighing in at just 2.68 grams compared with the market average of 3.46 grams. Real has also optimised the roll bags used for fruit and vegetables: together with its supplier, our sales line developed thinner bags, thereby reducing the material and resources required. According to calculations, this optimisation alone allows 19,000 litres of water to be saved during manufacturing and 92 tonnes of CO2 to be avoided in the transport and logistics process every year. This measure is also cost-effective, saving Real around €65,000 per annum.
In October 2014, we started replacing the PVC film used for cheese packed in store with a PVC-free variant. The packaging machines are gradually being modified for this purpose. Following this, the same measure will be rolled out for meat products.
Extending the life cycle
We attach importance to preventing wastage of raw materials at all stages of the process chain. In view of this, we not only focus on improving our use of resources and avoiding specific materials – we also work on lengthening the life cycle of products and resources and enabling our customers to engage in responsible consumption. A prime example of this is the cooperation between Media-Saturn and Flip4New, a leading recommerce provider in which our sales line has been owning a stake since October 2012. At all Saturn stores, selected Media Markt stores and online via the Saturn website, customers can hand in electrical products and media that they no longer need in exchange for a shopping voucher. Flip4New tests the used goods and then sells them via online platforms, thereby extending the lives of these elaborately manufactured products. This service for buying used products is already available at bricks-and-mortar outlets in five European countries, while customers from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands can also use Flip4New online.
Reuse instead of disposal is also the principle behind a project that METRO Cash & Carry France is implementing together with Veolia Propreté, a group that develops and implements solutions for sustainable water, waste and energy management. Together, the cooperation partners offer METRO Cash & Carry’s food service customers an environmentally friendly way to dispose of and recycle used cooking oil. To this end, Veolia provides the food service outlets with containers for used oil and collects these at regular intervals. The used oil is then converted into biofuel. Customers with a standard METRO customer card are reimbursed the full cost of this disposal service; customers with a “METRO Reflexe” card can even earn money from their used oil – around €0.15 per litre. With this model, the cooperation partners not only ensure that used oil is recycled in a sustainable way but also make a contribution to protecting the climate: 1 litre of converted cooking oil reduces CO2 emissions by 3 kilograms. This approach allowed METRO Cash & Carry France and its customers to save around 1.2 million kilograms of CO2 in the reporting period.
Recycling products – reusing materials
Electrical and electronic appliances are characterised by increasingly short life cycles, rising sales figures and a large proportion of reusable materials. The German Ministry for the Environment estimates that some 800,000 old appliances accumulate every year in Germany alone. As these contain many different substances and materials, they can pose a risk to the environment if they are not disposed of correctly. However, apart from pollutants such as heavy metals and CFCs, old appliances also contain various materials that can be reclaimed and recycled. With the aim of encouraging this, the German Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act (ElektroG), which came into effect in 2005, defines specific obligations for manufacturers, retailers, local authorities, owners and disposers. To date, retailers have not been required by law to take back electrical appliances. However, this is set to change with the amendment to the Electrical and Electronic Equipment Act, which – among other things – will make it mandatory for retailers to do so.
The Real and Media-Saturn sales lines have been involved for years in the German retail industry’s voluntary initiative for taking back old electrical appliances. Since 2005, Media-Saturn customers have been able to give back their old electrical and electronic appliances free of charge when buying a new one. Old appliances are not disposed of via municipal collection points but are introduced directly into the recycling process required by law. Real is also among the retailers that take back old appliances on a voluntary basis – customers who purchase new appliances at Real hypermarkets can hand in their old ones free of charge.
In Russia, Media Markt has introduced a nationwide battery recycling programme. This scheme, first introduced in the Media Markt stores in Moscow in November 2013, allows customers to take used batteries back to the stores and have them disposed of correctly. The programme has now been extended to all Russian stores. In Russia, batteries are not classified as hazardous waste and retailers are not required by law to collect used batteries. Nonetheless, Media Markt launched this scheme in line with European standards, making it the first authorised battery collection point in Russia.
In 2014, Saturn published a guide entitled “Altgeräte richtig entsorgen” (Disposing of old appliances properly) explaining to customers the correct way to dispose of old electrical appliances. The brochure, which among other things explains about valuable materials and resources contained in old appliances and about recycling and disposal options, was produced in collaboration with Utopia, an Internet platform for the promotion of sustainable consumption.
In Germany alone, approximately 11 million tonnes of food is thrown away every year. According to figures from the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 61 per cent of this can be attributed to private consumers, 17 per cent each to industry and large-scale consumers, and 5 per cent to retailers and wholesalers. Reducing food loss and waste as much as possible is one of METRO GROUP’s central concerns. In doing so, we take a holistic approach throughout all stages of the value chain, from farming to logistics and from in-store processes to the end consumer. Our activities in the field of procurement include training our suppliers on subjects such as food safety, hygiene standards and product processing. Thanks to our professional logistics operations, we also reduce food losses at the various stages of the value chain. Seven International Trading Offices are in charge of sourcing specific product groups. METRO Cash & Carry also sets up local collection centres for farmers near the cultivation areas, which reduces the time between harvesting and delivery of the produce to the stores. Best-before dates are actively monitored at our stores to ensure that products nearing their sell-by date are offered for sale in time. Service counters and in-store bakeries also help to prevent food loss by allowing customers to purchase the exact amount they need and enable us to maximise the freshness of the products on sale there every day. Goods that cannot be sold in time but are still suitable for consumption are made available to Tafel food bank organisations.
We run specific campaigns to raise awareness among customers about handling food correctly. This helps to avoid not only waste but also health risks for consumers. Various campaigns dedicated to avoiding food wastage were carried out at 31 hypermarkets in Germany by retail assistants and BA students from our Real sales line together with trainees. These illustrate the extent of our commitment to this issue. In the Real store in Tönisvorst, for example, the junior staff provided information about eliminating food waste with a campaign entitled “Verschwendung geht uns alle an” (Waste concerns us all). A similar campaign was organised by a retail assistant together with trainees at the Real hypermarket in Moers-Hülsdonk. Their customer information campaign centred on food-related issues such as using food, storing food and keeping it fresh. The diverse activities undertaken by the young managerial employees met with a great response in the media and above all among customers: with their campaign, the trainees met an estimated 540,000-plus consumers (including media contacts).
Above and beyond the current activities undertaken by our sales lines, we are continuing our involvement in the “Bündnis für Verbraucherbildung” (Alliance for Consumer Education) backed by the “Deutsche Stiftung Verbraucherschutz” (German Foundation for Consumer Protection) and the “Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband” (Federation of German Consumer Organisations). This is another way in which we help to share our responsible approach to food.