The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: Ahold USA

Sustainability Series: Ahold USA


May 29, 2011

Ahold USA is part of Ahold, a Dutch-based international food retailing group that operates quality supermarkets in the United States and Europe. Ahold USA supports four regional divisions that operate more than 750 supermarkets in 13 states and the District of Columbia, including Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Landover, and Giant Carlisle. In addition, Ahold USA operates Peapod, the nation’s leading online grocery shopping and delivery service. We talked to Harriet Hentges, Ahold USA’s VP of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability, about tackling the challenges of running a sustainable business – both domestically, and abroad.

How does your business define sustainability?

For Ahold, Corporate Responsibility and sustainability are synonymous. Our Corporate Responsibility strategy focuses on areas closely related to our business and where we can make a difference. This means playing a responsible role when it comes to our customers’ well-being, the sourcing of the products we sell, our impact on the environment, the communities we serve and the people we employ.

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?

We have set a Corporate Responsibility strategy that is comprehensive, touching all aspects of our business from production of the products we put in our stores – and the design and operation of our stores – to the transport of product to our stores. Product safety is an essential component in all that we do. We seek to work with suppliers who share our values, meet our Standards of Engagement and comply with international labor conventions and environmental standards.  

What are your short term and long term goals?

In 2010, we set a series of clear, measurable targets for each of our priority corporate responsibility areas between now and 2015. Our priority areas are healthy living, sustainable trade (ethical sourcing), climate action, community engagement, and our people. These are global goals that all Ahold companies embrace, and we will be tracking our progress toward them. We are serious and ambitious in our targets. Some examples include making it easy for our customers to make healthy choices by promoting healthier products and lifestyles. By 2015, our target is to increase the sale of products that meet the strictest criteria of healthy to at least 25% of total food sales across Ahold. 

We promote respect towards the people, animals and environment involved in our supply chain. One of the ways we do this is by aiming to produce our own brand products more sustainably and by ensuring that 100% of six critical commodities – coffee, tea, cocoa, palm oil, soy and seafood – used in these products are sustainably sourced based on industry certification standards. 

In addition, we aim to reduce our CO2 footprint by 20% per square meter of sales area on a baseline in our operations of 2008. We have a long tradition of supporting the communities in which we operate, and we do this in a variety of ways. Because we are in the food business, fighting hunger has been a key commitment area, as has the quality of life of children. Last year, Ahold USA donated $48 million to charitable causes across our market areas thanks to the generosity of our company, associates, suppliers and customers.

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

Delivering safe and healthy products for our customers sourced with care for people, the environment and natural resources, while setting more ambitious goals to improve the food industry, is how we will have the biggest impact. 

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

We learn from other retailers and take an active part in the industry discussions on a pre-competitive basis to improve the sustainability of the entire food industry. We are pleased to join forces with other retailers, food manufacturers, packaging companies, agricultural specialists, NGOs (non governmental organizations) and many other partners to share best practices on such issues as recycling, minimizing food waste and reducing the carbon footprint of the food industry. We also learn a great deal from our European colleagues at Ahold as we share best practices across continents.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

There are many reasons, and they are the same ones that are important to the consumer. Customers want safe and healthy food goods produced and delivered with respect for the environment. They also want to protect the rights of the people producing them and our associates who make this all happen. Fortunately, we are all on the same track. 

In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom