UPDATE: May 27, 2022: The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has validated emissions-reduction targets UNFI developed in connection with its 2030 Environmental, Social and Governance project, the grocery distributor announced on Wednesday.
UNFI's targets, which are based on emissions it recorded in fiscal 2020, include reducing greenhouse gas emissions from its fleet of owned and leased trucks as well as from sources across its supply chain.
“We take the need for business accountability in solving this global challenge seriously and look forward to engaging our value chain in these important efforts,” Alisha Real, UNFI’s director of sustainability and social impact, said in a statement.
- United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI) is ramping up its climate change efforts by developing new goals for its operations and value chain that align with the Paris Climate Agreement, according to an emailed press release.
- The wholesale grocery distributor said it plans to submit its goals within the next year to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a joint venture between nonprofit CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature aimed at improving companies’ work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. UNFI is “the first North American wholesale grocery distributor to align with SBTi,” UNFI Chairman and CEO Steven L. Spinner said.
- Looking ahead to next year, UNFI also said it plans to begin fully working toward its 2030 ESG targeted initiatives. While the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Agreement in November, UNFI’s latest announcement and recent efforts by grocers this year to improve their carbon footprint signal growing urgency among retailers and distributors to support clean energy.
If UNFI’s goals are approved by the SBTi, the wholesale distributor will join more than 1,000 companies, including Carrefour, Walmart and Tesco, working with the organization to set science-backed goals. SBTi asks that participating businesses announce their targets, report company-wide emissions and track progress.
The announcement adds to UNFI’s list of climate change efforts this year. In March, the company joined the Climate Collaborative, setting new energy efficiency, transportation and food waste goals. UNFI is also piloting its first electric, solar-powered refrigerated trailer in California.
UNFI's new plans also further a push by retailers and distributors to create new climate change goals, from new trucking vehicles to zero waste stores even as the U.S. has seen environmental rollbacks under President Donald Trump. In the summer, Ahold Delhaize unveiled plans to cut carbon emissions by 50% by 2030. Meanwhile, Wegmans said in September that it added two compressed natural gas trucks to its fleet of vehicles. Giant recently said that four more of its stores in Pennsylvania reached zero waste.
With interest growing in recent years among consumers for sustainable products and increasing competition from new food retailers focused on environmental sustainability, companies are pushing forward with their green goals in order to stay competitive.