How the Mark’s framework supports Aldi’s sustainability strategy

BITCI News - Aug 17, 2022

ALDI Ireland operates 150 stores with a further five stores opening in the coming weeks and stores already present in every county in Ireland, employing over 4,650 people. Our first Irish stores opened in 1999 in Dublin and Cork, and from the outset all our colleagues have been committed to supporting the local communities they serve and more recently improving our carbon footprint.

Going for the Mark

Why did your company decide to go for the Mark?

We made the decision to pursue the Mark to recognise the fantastic work our 4,650 colleagues across the country are doing daily to improve their local communities. Sustainability is ingrained across all levels of our organisation and to be formally recognised by BITCI is a great honour.

Pursuing the Mark has also provided a fantastic steer in terms of where we need to focus our efforts on, both in terms of where we’re succeeding and where we require more attention.

We’re proud to say that all our stores are powered by 100% green electricity, while our ‘Project Fresh’ retrofit programme is almost complete which sees stores revamped to become more sustainable through using solar panels, more environmentally-friendly refrigerant and other key solutions where possible.

Our store colleagues are deeply involved in their local communities through our Community Grants programme, which allows colleagues to decide which local charities and community organisations ALDI supports, enabling them to help the local good causes they’re passionate about. By the end of the year, our programme will have donated to more than 1,000 local charities and groups across Ireland.

We also support a number of national charities doing fantastic work in communities including Barnardos Ireland and the Irish Cancer Society. In 2020, in recognition of the hardships being faced by families across the country, we partnered with Barnardos to raise €1 million for the charity and, to date, we’ve donated over €730,000. In addition, our stores provide surplus food to those locally who need it most through our partnership with FoodCloud.

We’ve been Carbon Neutral since January 2019 and are committed to offering our customers easy-to-use recycling options. We are currently trialling three different sizes of reverse vending machine (small, medium and large) across three of our stores – Mitchelstown, Mallow and Naas respectively, encouraging our customers to return PET plastic bottles and aluminium drink cans.  Our Naas machine is the largest reverse vending machine in Ireland and is capable of collecting and storing up to 10,500 plastic bottles or 42,000 aluminium cans at any given time. Our recycling initiative comes with a twist, with a total of €1,000 per month being donated to Barnardos. This is the first time in Ireland for a reverse vending machine scheme to establish a direct fundraising link to an Irish charity.

We are proud to hold the title of Ireland’s ‘Most Sustainable Supermarket’ according to the Ireland RepTrak Sustainability Index 2021, which sits alongside a number of awards we have won in the area of sustainability, including Green Retailer of the Year 2022.

Working through the process

How was the process managed internally? How was the CEO & leadership team involved?

Sustainability has always been an integral part of how we operate and is more than just what our customers see on our shelves. In preparing for the Mark, it has been a company-wide effort and I would like to commend the entire ALDI team for their hard work.

ALDI’s dedicated CR team oversaw the whole process and provided the guiding light in terms of what was required to achieve the Mark. The executive team was also actively engaged throughout the process, and we ensured all resources were made available.

What was the most challenging part of the process? How did the process itself help the company? (i.e. what were some challenges your businesses was facing and how did the Mark help?

While our absolute priority is ensuring we continue to offer our customers the best prices and fantastic quality groceries, we understand that this must be done sustainably and with the environment in mind. To ensure consistency across our operations, an audit was completed by Business in the Community Ireland in 2020. From interviewing staff across multiple areas of the business, it was clear there were varying levels of engagement with corporate responsibility with some keen promoters, but also a lack of awareness amongst some colleagues. In order to ensure improved staff awareness of ALDI’s corporate responsibility achievements, a new brand, ‘Better Everyday’ was formed.

The Better Everyday strategy was launched to improve communications internally with employees on ALDI’s work and engagement, externally with charity partners, and most importantly with customers and external business stakeholders. I’m glad to say since launching the strategy, our team has been dedicated to ensuring we stay on track with a clear and strategic direction.

How did the Mark help you uncover the gaps and make a difference in your sustainability strategy?

We were confident of our sustainability strategy and the work we’re doing in communities across the country, but the Mark provided a rigorous framework – and an ‘external lens’ – through which we could review our entire strategy. It’s great to have such a renowned benchmark to continue on our sustainability journey from.

Being certified

What is the business value to the company now that you have been certified? What are the benefits for the business?

The benefits and value of being certified under the Mark are far-reaching. It commends the entire ALDI family’s work and keeps us motivated and driven to continue improving the local communities we serve. The Mark, renewed every three years, means our sustainability strategy is audited continuously by the leading standard in Ireland, ensuring we’re always up to scratch.

If a company was to start the certification process what’s one top tip you could give?

Those looking to start the certification process should first look internally. By evaluating our practices, performance and impact in areas such as employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion and environmental practices, we could determine a starting point for ALDI to pursue the Mark. Ask yourself, what easy wins can be implemented? Could you switch plastic to paper? Could you introduce solar panels? Once you have a grasp on where you currently stand, the journey can begin.

Where can we find out more about your sustainability?

To learn more about ALDI Ireland’s work in sustainability, check out our dedicated website:

Check out the other Business Working Responsibly Mark certified companies and learn more about the Mark.