Colruyt Group takes big step in own CO₂ reduction plan and plants more than 12 million trees in Democratic Republic of Congo

Colruyt Group, which is actively working on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (-31.4% in 2020, in relation to the turnover), is going to plant more than 10,000 hectares of forest - good for more than 12 million trees - in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This way Colruyt Group wants to capture the equivalent of its direct emissions, which cannot be reduced within a reasonable period, and thus compensate them. The ambition is to capture 120,000 tons of CO₂ by 2030 and thus to evolve towards a net-zero emission. This important step in the group's CO₂ reduction plan, with an investment budget of about 8 million euros, was thoroughly prepared and will be realised in cooperation with the local communities. This is how Colruyt Group wants to make a real and substantial difference in the long term, both to society and to the planet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Large-scale programme in close cooperation with the local community


Investing in reforestation: absorbing emissions

Colruyt Group has been working on reducing its direct CO2 emissions for years and will continue to do so. As a reminder, in 2019 the group announced its intention to reduce the direct emissions of its own activities by 40% by 2030 compared to 2008 (scopes 1 and 2 of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, in relation to turnover). Colruyt Group will therefore continue to invest heavily in its own reduction plan in the coming years, particularly in the areas of cooling, heating, insulation and transport. Through Eoly Energy and, more generally the holding company Virya Energy, the group is also working on the development of renewable energy sources, which will increase the 'avoided' CO2 emissions.

Jef Colruyt, CEO Colruyt Group: "But we want to do more. As a retailer we supply hundreds of thousands of families with food every day. Due to the nature of our activities we are therefore responsible for a CO2 emission that we cannot immediately reduce. So we want to offset them by absorbing the equivalent of those direct emissions. And we intend to do that actively, by investing in the planting of forests." 

Retail involves bringing products to the customer. This activity now represents 115,000 tonnes of CO2 direct emissions (2020). Jef Colruyt continues: "Per customer we serve, we have approximately an emission of 600 grams of CO2. And it is that emission that we now want to bring to zero. We are investing 8 million euros to make it possible to capture 120,000 tonnes of CO2 by 2030, which corresponds to almost 200 million visits to the store". The group has made a conscious decision to invest in this ambitious project, aiming for positive long-term effects. This afforestation project will at the same time generate added value for the local communities.

Democratic Republic of Congo: countless opportunities

The choice for forest planting soon requires a large, available area. The Democratic Republic of Congo has the second largest tropical forest in the world. However, the forests there are under pressure and efforts are needed from the population, in terms of protection, regeneration and planting. In December 2020 President Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi launched the national planting programme '1 billion trees by 2023'**, to which Colruyt Group is looking to contribute. Jef Colruyt: "We intend to plant 10,000 hectares - more than twice the surface area of the Zoniënwoud - within three years, together with Congolese partners."

Colruyt Group already has a long relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the first place commercial relations, via the export activities of Colex and the distribution of its own brands Everyday and Boni Selection, which are well established in Congolese households. But also through partnerships in the areas of production and training: in recent years, a sustainable chain has been set up in the Kivu region, in collaboration with Rikolto, which guarantees the coffee farmers of the Kawa Kabuya cooperative a fair price and stable sales opportunities. Since 2018, a training project has also been running in the region through Collibri Foundation, Colruyt Group's foundation.

On a long-term basis, in close cooperation with solid partners and local communities

A project like this takes time. "And we can't do this on our own either," says Jef Colruyt. "We have surrounded ourselves well to take the necessary steps together and to ensure that this project is a success for all parties involved. We are advised by the local NGOs CADIM and FAJA LOBI, who are already active in reforestation. We are also working with JUREC, a law firm in Kinshasa, which is in charge of contracts and permits." On the Belgian side, Colruyt Group can count on the scientific expertise of Ghent University, the Meise Botanical Garden and the AfricaMuseum.

The most important partners in the project are undoubtedly the local communities. With reforestation as an anchor point, Colruyt Group's ambition is to invest in the local population in the next two to three years through training and the creation of a few hundred local jobs. Agreements were also made to set up new training courses in forest management and agriculture and to develop a tree nursery. In the longer term this will also lead to more sustainable, forest-friendly agriculture. Colruyt Group will also contribute to a sustainable infrastructure with social purposes, in consultation with the communities. The team of Smart Technics*, a start-up specialised in managing the most innovative projects within Colruyt Group, will be responsible for the coordination and organisation of this project. It also provides a permanent presence in the region.   

Jef Colruyt concludes: "We have pursued a long-term strategy ever since our establishment. This is also the case here: we are embarking on a project that will last for decades - more specifically, it is a concession for 25 years that we can extend afterwards. We are taking a new step here and want to gain as much positive experience as possible. We are convinced that with this project we can have a significant impact on the site, in cooperation with the local communities. Both ecologically and economically and socially." 


In Belgium: compensating for deforestation and restoring biodiversity

Trees absorb CO2 (carbon dioxide) and incorporate it into their biomass. And that is not their only merit: they also ensure good soil quality and offer a natural habitat for insects, birds and other animals, thus improving biodiversity. Colruyt Group is not at its first experience with tree planting. Every year the group plants an average of 317 trees as compensation for deforestation (for example, when building a new store), systematically doubling the forest area. The group also planted approximately 3,000 trees in the extension of the Hallerbos, as a result of an Xtra-campaign in which users were encouraged to exchange their card for the app. Colruyt Group also systematically invests in green areas around its own sites.


1 billion trees by 2023

1 billion trees by 2023' is an initiative of the President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Félix-Antoine Tshisekedi, to combat climate change. The goal is to reforest 14 million hectares of rainforest by 2023 and to compensate about 3,150 million tons of CO2. The campaign is betting on multiple fronts and will:

  • Develop sustainable agriculture on an area of 1 million hectares;
  • Empower 2 million women; 
  • Engage 1 million youth (school children) in the climate cause and eco-entrepreneurship;
  • Get 10 million Congolese out of poverty;
  • Improve living conditions in 15,000 villages (drinking water, electricity, infrastructure, etc.).


You will find more information in the 4 attached information sheets:

About Smart Technics

Smart Technics is an innovative start-up within Colruyt Group with the motto: from inspiration to execution. The team offers a wide range of services, from engineering and project management to the design and implementation of technological solutions, both for the store environment and for logistics centres and production activities.