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Q&A: Aldi eyes reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Dan Gavin, VP of real estate, Aldi U.S., talks about the company’s transition to using natural refrigerants and other sustainability goals.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Companies worldwide are looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and Aldi U.S. is doing its part with broader sustainability goals such as using natural refrigerants in its stores and warehouses.

The retailer has focused on using less harmful emissions in its refrigeration, which the company said that commercial refrigeration equipment accounted for nearly a quarter of total HFC emissions in 2015. The Biden Administration recently implemented climate pollution rules designed to help the nation reduce greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2030 and track toward net zero emissions by 2050 as a part of the Paris Agreement.

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Dan Gavin

Aldi, a recipient of a Green Power award from the Environmental Protection Agency and a GreenChill certification, has its own goals in place. Dan Gavin, vice president of real estate at Aldi, talks with Store Brands about the company’s sustainability goals and the operational transition to natural refrigerants that he oversees.

Store Brands:How serious is the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and, in your estimation, how does Aldi monitor the issue?
Dan Gavin: Greenhouse gases are a proven threat to our atmosphere and climate, and the biggest contributor of emissions are the operations of everyday businesses, across all industries and households. Partnerships with the EPA, other government-led organizations and NGOs continue to validate the Aldi approach and understanding of the impact these harmful emissions have on our planet. Aldi will continue to take an active role in analyzing how we can make operational changes to combat the issue.

SB: What are the ways Aldi is tackling this issue?
DG: Earlier this year, we announced a new sustainability charter, complete with a series of goals we aim to achieve between now and 2030. Among these goals is reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025. One of the ways we are achieving this is through the adoption of more environmentally friendly refrigeration and cooling systems.

We have been working closely with the EPA's GreenChill Partnership and have received nearly 430 GreenChill certifications as of July 2021. This continued partnership with the EPA is indicative of our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and has established us as an industry leader when it comes to sustainability and corporate responsibility.

SB: How are you influencing suppliers or business partners to follow your lead?
DG: Aldi has implemented measures to reduce our carbon footprint and improve environmental standards everywhere we operate, especially when it comes to refrigeration. Hillphoenix has been recognized by the GreenChill EPA program as a result of our partnership.

Separately, with a supply chain as robust as ours, we know it is important to include our business partners and suppliers in our goals, which is why we are encouraging them to set science-based emission reduction targets for their own operations by 2024.

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To help them meet that commitment, we are offering partners and suppliers educational resources to help them better understand how to set realistic targets for their businesses that are based on scientific data.

SB: What’s the ultimate goal for Aldi regarding the issue and realistically how quickly can you meet it?
DG: We are determined to continue minimizing our ecological footprint, and overall impact on the ozone layer and climate change, and that includes remaining fully committed to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025. This specific goal was established using science-based targets. We will also continue to limit our carbon reduction projects in the supply chain by encouraging key suppliers to set science-based emissions targets by 2024.

SB: What can consumers do to help?
DG: We encourage consumers to continue educating themselves about not only the impact of greenhouse gas emissions but also where those emissions originate and to consider how they can play a role in helping minimize them. For instance, refrigerant emissions may not be as top-of-mind for consumers as other carbon emissions, such as cars or factories, but are still an issue for which many businesses are trying to find new solutions. It is important first to understand what is causing climate change and then to actively find ways to make small changes in our daily lives, along with supporting businesses dedicated to making a meaningful impact in the fight against climate change.

"Since more than 90% of our products are Aldi-exclusive brands, we have greater influence over how they are sourced, produced and delivered to our stores. We also pay great attention to how we manage product surplus and avoid excess products from the onset."

SB: How do Aldi exclusive-brand products play a role in HFC emissions and sustainability?
DG: It is our vision that all Aldi products be made in a sustainable manner, and we consider both environmental and social criteria when making these decisions. Since more than 90% of our products are Aldi-exclusive brands, we have greater influence over how they are sourced, produced and delivered to our stores. We also pay great attention to how we manage product surplus and avoid excess products from the onset.

As part of our sustainability charter, Aldi is committing to divert 90% of operational waste and striving to reduce food waste by 50% by 2030. What many people may not realize is the impact of waste on our environment, as waste to landfill is another culprit of carbon emissions. In 2020, Aldi recycled nearly 300,000 tons of material, avoiding the greenhouse gas emission equivalent of nearly nine million gallons of gasoline per month. This enhanced focus, along with our strong supplier relationships, help us continue our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint as a business.

Not only are we moving away from HFC refrigerants, we are also continually investing in renewable energy. This includes owned and operated solar arrays on our store and warehouse rooftops, and a wind turbine at our Dwight, Ill., warehouse, which will provide up to 40% of the power needed for the 390,000-square-foot facility. Finally, we also are committed to purchasing green electricity. In September 2020, Aldi received an Excellence in Green Power Use award from the EPA’s Green Power Partnership for demonstrating exemplary action and dedication to significantly advancing the U.S. renewable energy market through voluntary green power use.