Earthwise 2022: Albertsons Promotes a Sustainable Recipe for Change

Albertsons expands Earth-friendly plans to positively impact the communities it serves.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
Greg Sleter profile picture

As one of the nation’s largest grocers, officials at Albertsons said the company is focused on using its national presence and expertise to drive “proactive change” and “uncover meaningful solutions” pertaining to sustainability. Recently, the company announced its Recipe for Change initiative that focuses on Albertsons long-term Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts.

“Albertsons Cos. has made substantial progress driving sustainability practices in our operations, including reducing energy and fuel consumption, implementing recycling programs, and fighting food insecurity in our local neighborhoods,” said Suzanne Long, the company’s Chief Sustainability and Transformation Officer. “Recipe for Change is about broadening our existing commitments so we can have an even greater impact.”

Albertsons Suzanne Long
Suzanne Long, Chief Sustainability and Transformation Officer at Albertsons

In an interview with Store Brands, Long shared specifics on Albertsons’ sustainability efforts that include the impact on private label products, how it’s communicating those efforts to its shoppers and the broader corporate efforts related to energy conservation and waste reduction.

SB: When working with product suppliers, what steps has Albertsons taken as it pertains to its sustainability efforts?

LONG: One of the key focus areas in our Recipe for Change platform is waste reduction and circularity. We are committed to eliminating food waste going to landfill, reducing the use of plastic, and accelerating our transition to a more circular economy.

An example of our efforts in this area is a series of light-weighting initiatives that reduce the amount of plastic we use in products like water bottles and milk jugs. Our teams engineered a gallon jug for our milk plants that uses about 10% less plastic than our previous jug. We also have an innovative partnership in the Pacific Northwest in which we send some of our food waste to a biodigester that creates biogas and soil nutrients for an organic farm.

The biogas is then converted to electricity, which powers the onsite plant that packages fruit grown using the soil nutrients. We then sell this produce in our stores. We also want our customers to have options to purchase sustainably sourced products.

Examples include our Responsible Choice seafood program and Fair-Trade certified products offered in our stores, including our entire line of O Organics coffee. In addition, we believe everyone should have the opportunity to choose organic products, and our exclusive O Organics line is 100% USDA Certified organic.

Albertsons private label

SB: What steps are taken to educate shoppers and get their buy-in to properly dispose of packaging? How are these efforts marketed to shoppers?

Long: We strive to continuously improve how we communicate recyclability to our customers. We are proud to share that by the end of this year, our customers will see standardized recycling communications on our own brands packaging and/or through our Smart Labels and other QR code systems. We have partnered with How2Recycle to leverage their labeling systems across various product categories to improve the reliability and transparency of recyclability claims. This will help customers know how to properly dispose of and recycle our own brand product packaging to help keep plastic out of landfills.

SB: Has Albertsons received any feedback or ideas from shoppers or employees related to sustainability?

Long: When we refreshed our materiality assessment in 2020, we engaged our customers and various internal stakeholders to learn more about what ESG topics they thought were most important for us to focus on. That feedback is part of what helped us determine our Recipe for Change focus areas. We’ve received a positive response from our associates, customers and vendor partners since announcing our Recipe for Change, and we look forward to sharing progress against our goals.

We know this is a growing area of interest and importance for our customers, associates, vendor partners and investors. We hope they will continue to stay engaged with us and our Recipe for Change progress so we can continue to be informed of topics that are most important to them.

SB: From a corporate perspective, what are some of the newest sustainability initiatives being implemented?

Long: One of our key commitments is to fight climate change by reducing carbon emissions by 2030 through science-based targets and achieving net zero emissions in our operations by 2040. We have several projects and initiatives already underway, and we’ve developed plans for other long-term strategies.

We were one of the first retailers in the country to use utility-grade wind turbines at our distribution center in Tracy, Calif. The two 1-mega-watt Mitsubishi wind turbines make a significant contribution to the power needs of our 1.9 million-square-foot distribution center located on 210 acres.

Also, we are purchasing utility-scale renewable energy, which helps to bring new clean energy operations online. We are investing in energy efficiency to reduce our electricity usage in our stores, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and offices. And our entire private truck fleet is certified by the EPA’s SmartWay program as we work to reduce our carbon footprint and advance supply chain sustainability and freight transportation efficiency.