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Supermarket group faces challenge over plastic failings
18 november 2021
One of the world’s largest international grocery retail groups has been reported to the Dutch financial regulator for failing to disclose key information on its use of plastics and for failing to report plastic-related risk to its investors, in breach of its legal requirements.
The environmental law charity ClientEarth and Dutch NGO Plastic Soup Foundation filed the complaint today –the first of its kind in the Netherlands.
Grocery retailers like Ahold Delhaize are a major source of plastic packaging, which is the largest single use of plastics and makes up an even greater proportion of plastic waste. Research by Plastic Soup Foundation found that more than 80% of Albert Heijn – one of Ahold Delhaize’s supermarkets – products are packaged in single-use plastic.
These supermarkets’ reliance on plastics means that they are very vulnerable to key regulatory and cultural changes coming their way:
New EU laws and policies aimed at reducing plastic waste and carbon emissions. These will impact any company whose business model relies on plastics.
Increasing public awareness of the negative impacts of plastics on the environment, the climate and our health.
New legal action on plastic pollution as citizens and NGOs take action against companies involved in the plastics crisis.
In their complaint, ClientEarth and Plastic Soup Foundation explain that these trends amount to material financial risks and as such, need to be disclosed to investors – which Ahold Delhaize does not do.
ClientEarth plastics lawyer Rosa Pritchard said: “As one of the world’s largest supermarket groups, Ahold Delhaize heavily relies on single-use plastics to make its business work. But the regulatory landscape is changing at speed, threatening business models dependent on wasteful single-use plastics and leaving companies like Ahold Delhaize exposed to serious financial headwinds. Yet Ahold Delhaize has not disclosed this information to investors – which is a breach of EU law.”
Key findings from the lawyers’ review of Ahold Delhaize’s reporting include that:
It does not disclose the amount of plastic it uses.
It does not mention the impact the plastic it uses has on the environment, the climate and people’s health.
It provides notably less information on its use of plastic packaging than many of its peers.
It does not acknowledge that its use of plastic packaging generates financial risks to its business.
ClientEarth and Plastic Soup Foundation said that a robust response from Ahold Delhaize as well as a strong signal from the regulator are needed.
Jurjen de Waal, Plastic Soup Foundation’s plastic waste campaigner, said: “As a market-leader, Ahold Delhaize needs to address its overreliance on plastics and turn off the tap on
single-use plastic packaging. It should do this by including re-use and refill options and cutting out unnecessary packaging.
Pritchard added: “The AFM is responsible for enforcing the law so that financial players have relevant information to make sustainable investment decisions.”
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