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    Interview Maria Mihai, Lidl Romania: “We will continue to invest in reducing our company’s impact on the environment”

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    “We, at Lidl Romania, believe in the power of long-term measures and programs, so in the coming years we will continue our same priorities as before: to invest in internal measures that help us reduce our company’s impact on the environment, from the way buildings are built, the way in which we carry out our activity, in which we expand our network of stores and the logistics network, up to the solutions to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. We will continue to invest in the quality of our products, in developing partnerships with local suppliers, in ensuring traceability, improving the type of packaging used or reducing the impact of these products on the environment throughout the value chain. Of course, we will continue to support the strategic partnerships we develop with civil society to improve the systems and structures in the communities in which we operate,” Maria Mihai, Communication & CSR Director al Lidl Romania, told Sustainability Today.

    How does Lidl integrate sustainability into its business operations and supply chain management?

    For us, at Lidl Romania, operating according to a sustainable model and having a sustainable development strategy is a way of doing business itself. Sustainability is a central pillar that supports the overarching strategy of our business and wider discount model. Therefore, simple, and sustainable actions define our way of working and doing business both locally and across the globe. For this, we look at all our areas of impact and continuously improve our operations, whether we are talking about the procurement and production processes of private label products, planning, transport, or the preservation of raw materials. In terms of creating a sustainable supply chain, we  act towards reducing significant negative impacts in the supply chain, production, and transportation, and aligning the practices of our partner suppliers to the standards we operate under.

    What specific measures has Lidl taken to reduce its environmental footprint, such as energy consumption, waste reduction, and carbon emissions?

    Globally we are facing unprecedented environmental challenges; we, at Lidl, constantly evaluate the impact that our actions can have on the environment and aim to decrease our climate impact by continuously improving our resource efficiency, particularly in energy usage. Over the last years we have developed our energy management strategies and planned. For example, few years ago we have started the installation of photovoltaic panels on our new stores. In addition, all our stores, logistics centers and administrative offices are certified according to the ISO 50001 energy management system. This system helps us to identify inefficiencies and potential for optimization in a timely manner. The certification ensures we continually improve the energy performance of our buildings, optimize their use, and reduce their operating costs.

    Regarding the reduction of residual waste, since 2015, we organize the waste areas in all logistics centers so that we can ensure a more efficient separation and collection of the generated materials. In addition, we decided to introduce a system to track the monthly evolution of the amount of residual waste, by making a ranking that includes the stores that generate the largest amount of residual versus recyclable waste. This is distributed to everyone in the sales team with the objective of reducing the percentage of residual waste and increasing the percentage of recyclable one.

    In recent years, we have had discussions with our suppliers on two very important topics: reduction of negative impacts in the supply chain and production and alignment of supplier practices to the standards under which we operate. For example, regarding the reduction of polluting emissions in our transport activities, we have collaborated since the financial year 2021, with suppliers who have in their own freight transport fleet, the first 100% electric truck from Romania. At the beginning of 2023, two more electric trucks were introduced into the fleet of our transport partner, marking a new important step in terms of green transport.

    What role does innovation play in Lidl’s sustainability strategy, and can you provide examples of innovative approaches or technologies you have implemented?

    Innovation means transformation, reinvention, and adaptation both at the business level and to market requirements. We have always looked for different ways to innovate, especially in ​​sustainability. For example, last year with the inauguration of our logistics headquarters in Fundeni, we started installing a compressed natural gas station under our own regime, which became operational in March of last year. This is the first CNG station available in a logistics warehouse in Romania and can be used exclusively by the trucks of Lidl Romania partners. In the same line with the measures to innovate and make transport more efficient, with the inauguration of the Lidl logistics center in Fundeni, we also built the first electric fast charge station for trucks in a Lidl warehouse. The station runs on energy from the 2,650 solar panels mounted on the roof of the warehouse and can simultaneously power two electric trucks.

    How does Lidl measure and track its progress towards sustainability goals, and what key performance indicators (KPIs) do you use to assess your impact?

    Since 2016, the most important “instrument” we use for measuring sustainability goals and set KPIs is the sustainability report, according to GRI standards. Since then, we have done much more to integrate the pressing aims of our sustainability strategy into our commercial objectives, supplier relationships, store warehouses operations and beyond. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals inform our long-term purpose and targets, ensuring that our strategy always contributes to overcoming our world’s greatest challenges.

    Can you share any challenges or obstacles Lidl has faced in its sustainability journey, and how have you overcome them?

    We believe that some of the biggest obstacles we have had and will have to deal with will be climate change. By the rate at which we consume renewable resources such as wood, water, soil, air, fauna, and flora as well as by our almost total dependence on non-renewable resources such as fossil fuels, rare metals and minerals and other resources necessary to sustain our current way of life.

    We are aware that our national presence has a significant impact on the environment and local communities, so we aim to act responsibly where we operate. For example, we look carefully at the entire value chain, including from the perspective of the resources that the planet makes available to us and that we use through our activity, in the production of private label products, in agricultural production or in the manufacturing process of non-food products. In this regard, at group level we have developed a policy on responsible water consumption in the procurement of goods and have taken several decisions to ensure that we make a positive contribution to responsible water consumption.

    Also, we should mention the obstacles over which we have no control, such as the latest events, such as the pandemic and its effects or the energy crisis. There are risks that we analyse and for which we prepare with various scenarios to further support our sustainable business development.

    What future sustainability initiatives or projects is Lidl currently considering or planning to implement?

    We constantly strive to adopt sustainable measures both in our internal operations and with the non-governmental organizations with which we collaborate on a long-term basis. One such example of an initiative that is currently ongoing is the project that we started in the financial year 2022, with the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Bucharest, together with which we developed a pilot evaluation method of the agricultural practices of our local fruit and vegetable suppliers. It tracks the areas of water, soil, climate, and biodiversity and provides specialist guidance to producers through applicable examples. By using this method, we aim to reduce the negative impacts on the environment resulting from the agricultural activity that producers conduct. So far, there were three pilot checks conducted together with specialists from USAMVB, who made site visits to the producers.

    What partnerships or collaborations has Lidl established with other organizations or industry stakeholders to further its sustainability objectives?

    Regarding collaborations with other organizations, in our social responsibility strategy we act and contribute with concrete solutions in the following areas of action: education and environment, food waste, health and healthcare.

    For example, in the environmental area, in addition to the measures related to our internal operations, we support programs at national level, long-term, conducted in partnership with NGOs, through which we reduce the amount of plastic in the environment. Also, we make constant efforts to combat food waste. We are founding partners of the Romanian Food Bank network, ever since the opening of the first such organization, in Bucharest, in 2016. From then until now, we have continuously supported the development of the Network financially, but also through product donations from our warehouses. We also believe that education is one of the most important areas that can contribute to the sustainable development of a society, therefore we continue to invest in this area with the help of organizations that focus on quality inclusive education.

    We also support health programs, and we invest in equipping the most crowded cities in the country with urban intervention motorcycles, capable of shortening the response time to serious medical cases. In addition, through strategic programs with an impact in communities, we can go much more applied with solutions and opportunities to contribute to solving certain problems in the community.

    How do you see the role of CSR and sustainability evolving within Lidl and the retail industry in the coming years?

    We, at Lidl Romania, believe in the power of long-term measures and programs, so in the coming years we will continue our same priorities as before: to invest in internal measures that help us reduce our company’s impact on the environment, from the way buildings are built, the way in which we carry out our activity, in which we expand our network of stores and the logistics network, up to the solutions to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the landfill. We will continue to invest in the quality of our products, in developing partnerships with local suppliers, in ensuring traceability, improving the type of packaging used or reducing the impact of these products on the environment throughout the value chain. Of course, we will continue to support the strategic partnerships we develop with civil society to improve the systems and structures in the communities in which we operate.

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