‘Supermarkets should tell people to eat less meat’

Supermarkets are beginning to embrace sustainability, writes Trouw. So what are they doing about it and should they do more?

Ahold CEO Dick Boer jumped from number 41 to 23 in Trouw’s sustainability top 100 on the strength of his promise to make Albert Heijn’s own brand products completely sustainable within four years. Arie van Doesburg, manager at Plus, has come in at number 47 because he is promoting seasonal and locally sourced products.


Trouw quotes supermarket sustainability advisor Frits Kremer who thinks Dutch supermarkets are getting greener, at least compared to five years ago. ‘Directors of supermarkets used to be very prejudiced and never thought the environment would influence consumer choice. By focusing solely on getting the lowest prices they let a potential profit slip through their fingers’, he says.

Kremer praises Albert Heijn for its Puur & Eerlijk (Pure & Honest) range. ‘Sheer genius’ he calls it. He refutes the criticism the range has come in for. ‘It’s not vague at all. It’s covered by a number of test marks. The Puur & Eerlijk label is on biological products checked by SKAL as well as their Max Havelaar fair trade products and Beter Leven (Better Life) beef.’

Integral approach

Food specialist Sijas Akkerman, who works for environmental organisation Natuur & Milieu, thinks Albert Heijn doesn’t go far enough. The company may sell animal friendly meat, says Akkerman, but should adopt an integral approach to sustainable food which includes both the environment and fair trade.

But Albert Heijn redeems itself by working with the environmental organisation on ascertaining and diminishing the environmental pollution of products, Akkerman says. ‘It’s a step by step approach. In time all products will have an eco norm or something similar. Albert Heijn has the organisation to bring about such a change and then other supermarkets will follow’.

Plus is one of the followers. Apart from its seasonal and locally sourced products it also sells hybrid meat which contains a proportion of vegetable proteins. ‘Eating less meat is hugely beneficial to the environment’, Akkerman says.

Black sheep

C1000 is the black sheep among supermarkets. ‘The biggest butcher of the country’ made its name by selling meat at rock bottom prices but according to Kremer even C1000 is considering going green. Akkerman, however, fears the supermarket will label its meat animal friendly and forget about the rest.

Those who are looking for a top ten of sustainable supermarkets will be disappointed, writes the paper. Counting the number of fair trade and ecological products on the shelves, as does environmental organisation Milieudefensie, is not enough, says Kremer. ‘First scientists will have to agree on all the elements that constitute sustainability, the environment, human rights, animal welfare and health among them. And even then, some elements could outweigh others.’

Life cycle

The only way to truly assess sustainability according to Akkerman is to analyse the complete life cycle of products which is what Wageningen university and two American universities are currently doing for companies such as l’Oréal, Coca Cola and Dell. Working conditions and fair trade aspects, the amount of water used and the CO2 gas emission rate are measured every step of the way, from prime materials to how a product is used at home.

Both Akkerman and Kremer feel that supermarkets are on their way but could do better. They should consider advising people to eat less meat and use their sales skills to tempt people into buying environmentally friendly products.

Source / Fuente: www.dutchnews.nl

Author / Autor: Staff

Date / Fecha: 30/11/11

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