We reduced the climate impact of our own operations by 76% between 2006 and 2020, and since then we compensate for our remaining emissions through offsets. We have set goals to have net zero emissions in our own operations and to cut emissions from our customers’ grocery purchases in half by 2030 at the latest. We are striving to save on resources and reduce waste along the entire agri-food chain. Together with our customers we are working to minimise our environmental and climate impacts.
Examples of activities
Roughly a fourth of all food that is bought is tossed out instead of being consumed. ICA Gruppen is engaged in a number of initiatives to reduce food waste throughout the entire value chain. Preventive work plays a central role in reducing waste in ICA Gruppen’s stores and warehouses, such as by adopting better purchasing processes and registering, following up and analysing the causes of food waste. Measures are also being taken to reduce waste in households, such as by adjusting package sizes. For example, the package size for ICA brand hand-peeled shrimp was changed from 170 grams to 140 grams to be better-suited for single-person households and older customers.
ICA and Rimi Baltic stores are also conducting active work to reduce food waste. In addition to efforts to find the right purchasing volumes and work with assortment optimisation, many stores lower the price of products that are nearing their best-before dates. Stores with kitchens also use surplus foods and ingredients to make ready-to-eat foods, juice and smoothies, for example. Many stores have also partnered with various types on charity organisations, such as the Salvation Army, Stadsmissionen, Food Bank, Karma and Food2Change, to take care of food that cannot be sold.
In Stockholm ICA has partnered with Matmissionen, Stadsmissionen’s social supermarket concept. The stores sell groceries at sharply reduced prices from ICA Sweden’s warehouses and e-commerce warehouses in the greater Stockholm area.
Both ICA Sweden and Rimi Baltic are working together with start-ups on initiatives such as using AI to reduce food waste in stores or to provide recommendations to customers shopping online.
ICA Gruppen is working actively and strategically with packaging based on a holistic view of sustainability and lifecycle perspective. This means among other things that we are working to reduce the volume of plastic, on switching over to renewable materials, and with packaging design that makes recycling easier.
To contribute to a circular and more sustainable plastics system, in 2018 ICA Gruppen adopted a Group-wide plastics strategy. In line with this, since then all single-use items made from fossil-based plastic have been phased out of the central assortment. Single-use plastic items have instead been replaced by biomaterials. After 2025 all plastic food packaging used for ICA Gruppen’s corporate brand products is to be recyclable, and after 2030 will be made from recycled or renewable materials.
Work on package development and on replacing plastic is ongoing continuously.
This entails, for example:
- Reduced use of plastics
One example from 2022 is the new packages for ICA Sweden’s fresh, vacuum-packed chicken, which use 46% less plastic than the previous package. This translates to approximately 5,000 kg less plastic per year.
- Design for easier recycling
During the year, for example, the pink colouring on ICA’s packages for refrigerated cold cuts was removed, and ICA Sweden together with the grocery retail trade issued a joint statement of intent for soft plastic packaging for frozen products. According to this, primary packages are to be used that do not consist of a combination of several types of plastic, the printing area on package surfaces for text and colours is to be reduced, and transparent or white plastic film is to be used.
- Switch to renewable materials
Initiatives in this area include, for example, ICA Sweden’s partnership with the foodtech company Saveggy, which has developed a biobased, fully biodegradable coating that can replace plastic on cucumbers, for example.
Biodiversity and healthy ecosystems are a precondition for life on Earth – and for food production. At the same time, the food production itself has a large impact on biodiversity, and it for this reason that ICA Gruppen is working actively with this issue, both in Sweden and in the global value chain.
ICA Gruppen works actively to protect and promote biodiversity by setting requirements for the products that are sold, through collaborations to promote sustainable food production in Sweden, and through ICA Real Estate’s work.
ICA Gruppen’s largest impact on biodiversity is in food production, and the risk for negative impacts on biodiversity through e.g., deforestation or overfishing have therefore been a key parameter in the criteria for ICA Gruppen’s risk ingredients.
In Sweden, biodiversity is threatened by the closure of farm operations, with a subsequent decrease in pastures and variation of landscape. ICA is therefore working actively to promote Swedish agriculture, such as through a long-standing partnership with the Swedish Federation of Farmers (LRF), within the framework of ICA Växa (“ICA Grow”), and by using a high share of Swedish ingredients in ICA’s corporate brand products. Organic production has distinct value added coupled to biodiversity, and ICA Gruppen therefore works actively to offer a wide range of organic and sustainability labelled corporate brand products. ICA Real Estate promotes biodiversity in all newbuild projects. For example, in connection with the construction of a new store building in Brunnhög, initiatives include the inclusion of compost piles, placement of deadwood in surrounding nature, preservation of meadow grasses, thatched roofs, solitary bee habitats on rooftops and insect hotels.
Many consumers want to make conscious choices when they do their grocery shopping, and ICA’s ambition is to make it easy for those who want to lower their climate impact through the food they buy. It is the total picture that is significant, and therefore our services use meal planning and weekly menus as their starting point rather than climate labelling of individual food products.
Through climate-calculated recipes and “Klimat” food kits, ICA’s customers can choose convenient alternatives that are within the limits of what the planet can sustain. Both the climate-guided recipes and the weekly menus in the Klimat food kits have been climate-calculated using the RISE Food Climate Database. On average, every portion in the food kit – and the recipes marked as the most climate-smart in ICA’s recipe database – contains 0.5 kg. CO2 equivalents, which is the benchmark set by WWF to meet the 1.5C goal of the Paris Agreement.
Increasing the share of plant-based foods is the single most important change for creating a more sustainable food system. At the same time, most plant-based alternatives are made outside of Sweden. ICA Växa (“ICA Grow”) is an initiative within ICA aimed at contributing to the ambition to cut the carbon footprint of customers’ grocery purchases in half by 2030 and to strengthen local ecosystems for food production and consumption.
Construction materials such as steel and cement have a large climate impact. Building with sustainable materials that have a smaller climate impact is therefore an important part of ICA Real Estate’s work on creating sustainable buildings over time. New buildings are environmentally certified, such as ICA’s e-commerce warehouse in Arendal, Gothenburg, which was named as BREEAM Building of the Year by Sweden Green Building Council. We are seeing more and more how choice of material is gaining in significance in new construction with a smaller climate impact. ICA Real Estate has therefore made a strategic decision to primarily use – to the extent the project allows – sustainable construction materials such as wood in framing newbuild projects.
The first such project in which this decision could be applied and where extra strong focus was on choice of material was ICA Supermarket Lindvallen. The store, which had its grand opening in 2021, was built entirely of solid wood for a lower climate impact compared to materials such as metal, concrete and Paroc that are commonly used for framing, walls and facades. The lumber used for the ICA Supermarket in Lindvallen was harvested from Swedish forests in Västerbotten, Norrbotten and parts of Västernorrland, resulting in shorter transports and lower emissions. New buildings currently under construction are also being built of wood in Åkersberga and Östhammar.
Goods transports today account for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions from ICA Gruppen’s own operations. The reduce the climate impact of transports, ICA Gruppen is therefore working actively with measures such as route optimisation, increasing the share of renewable fuel and long-term investment in electrification.
ICA Gruppen has set a target for road transports within the Group’s Swedish companies to be entirely fossil-free by 2030 at the latest. In metropolitan areas (Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö) the goal is to achieve this already by 2025. This target will be achieved by, among other measures, investing in new technology and looking into how initiatives to boost national production of renewable fuels can be supported. We are working in many ways to achieve this target, such as through route optimisation and by shifting goods shipments from lorries to trains, as well as through investment in electrified transports and increased use of biofuels.
ICA began cooperating with Volvo Trucks in 2020. The partnership covers several areas, the most important of which includes facilitating electric transport solutions in Sweden for transports both in city centres and eventually also for longer routes between cities. Together ICA Sweden and Volvo Trucks will create conditions for implementing electric solutions, both with the existing product and service offering and by testing new technologies together.
Many compounds used in pharmaceuticals risk having an adverse environmental impact, and monitoring and influencing production conditions have long had a number of challenges. For a number of years Apotek Hjärtat has been conducting initiatives to promote greater transparency and traceability in the pharmaceutical industry, including the Välvald (“Well chosen”) initiative.
Pharmaceuticals contain biologically active substances as well as a range of additives such as preservatives and colouring agents. It is primarily the biologically active substances that can pose risks to the environment, since they may also have effects on animals and other living organisms. Moreover, a large share of production is conducted in developing countries, where wastewater treatment systems are often sub-standard. Thus far, environmental aspects are lacking in the international standard for pharmaceutical production, and transparency surrounding production conditions and associated emissions is relatively limited. By making demands on suppliers, Apotek Hjärtat is striving to bring about a higher degree of openness about environmental considerations and impacts related to pharmaceutical production.
At the start of 2021 all Swedish pharmacies introduced the industry-wide guide and label Välvald – signifying greater transparency within the pharmaceutical industry. The label is based on the guide that Apotek Hjärtat was the first pharmacy actor to produce in 2017 along with the accompanying Välj med Hjärtat (“Choose with your Heart”) marking.