Aldi came fifth in the supermarket ranking and were placed in the overall category ‘could do better’.
When compared to the majority of other supermarkets, they are doing well at removing the most hazardous pesticides from their global supply chains. However, they could be much more open about pesticides in their supply chain and so scored poorly on transparency. Like all other UK supermarkets, Aldi could be doing more to reduce pesticide-related harms in their global supply chains.
Phasing out the most hazardous pesticides
Aldi has a set of criteria against which pesticides are assessed to see if they should be of particular concern due to their high potential to cause harm to human health or the environment. Once a specific pesticide has been identified as ‘highly hazardous’, the company either monitors its use or puts in place an action plan for restricting or phasing it out of its global supply chains. Aldi told PAN UK that it does not allow any pesticide not authorised in the EU to be used in its global supply chains. As the EU has banned many of the most hazardous pesticides, this means that Aldi are doing better than any other supermarket in this regard. However, the EU does still permit the use of many pesticides which meet the UN criteria for ‘Highly Hazardous Pesticides’ (HHPs) due to their high potential to cause harm to human health or the environment. As a result, some Highly Hazardous Pesticides remain in use in Aldi’s global supply chains.
Engaging with customers on reducing pesticide use
Aldi told PAN UK that they are taking the following actions to involve their customers in reducing pesticide use in their supply chains:
- In response to complaints from customers who find a bug in fresh produce, Aldi are making sure to explain that this may be because their suppliers are using less pesticides.
- Aldi include fruit and vegetables that aren’t perfect in their ‘Everyday Essentials’ trademark, thereby reducing the need for cosmetic pesticides.
The company is also making efforts to promote fruit and vegetables that are in season and therefore more likely to be grown closer to home. Keeping supply chains short tends to lessen the need to use fungicides which prevent fresh produce from rotting while they are being transported.
Supporting suppliers to use non-chemical alternatives
Aldi informed PAN UK that they are taking some measures to help their suppliers reduce their reliance on pesticides, including encouraging them to use biopesticides and other non-chemical methods of pest control. They make efforts to keep supply chains short which reduces the need for fungicides that prevent fresh produce from rotting while they are being transported. They also support ‘Grower Associations’ where farmers can share tips and advice on a range of topics including pesticide use. However, Aldi could be doing more. Unlike some other supermarkets, the company doesn’t have its own in-house advice or training schemes for suppliers on non-chemical pest management techniques or conduct their own research on the topic. However, Aldi did tell PAN UK they work with external partners who conduct both training and research.
Monitoring and reducing pesticide residues in food
While Aldi test a range of food items for pesticide residues including fruit, vegetables, dairy, meat and baby food they could be carrying out more extensive testing by including other items such as cereals and nuts. The company did tell PAN UK that they intend to widen their testing to include these items and that, in addition, all their suppliers conduct their own due diligence residue testing. In terms of working with specific suppliers to tackle particular problems of high residues when they emerge, Aldi stated that they “…review all suppliers proposed pesticide use and work with suppliers to tackle any issues identified”. However they did not provide any detail as to how they do this or whether they advise suppliers to switch to non-chemical alternatives as a first resort.
Reducing harm caused to bees and pollinators
Aldi told PAN UK that they conduct training for all staff on the importance of pollinators, and are very proud of the Bee Hotel at their headquarters in Warwickshire. Aldi have also banned bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides from their global supply chains which is further than any other supermarket has gone. While this is a huge positive, Aldi could be doing more to proactively help and encourage their suppliers to adopt the pollinator-friendly practices needed if we are to reverse insect declines. For example, unlike some other supermarkets, the company isn’t currently funding research on the effect of pesticides on pollinators and alternative non-chemical practices that could be employed by farmers, or asking their suppliers to monitor pollinator activity. However, Aldi did tell PAN UK that around 50% of their suppliers are certified by LEAF (a UK organisation aimed at “…delivering more sustainable food and farming” which provides guidance to farmers on how to protect bees and other pollinators) and a similar proportion leave field margins uncultivated (a practice aimed at providing uncontaminated habitat for pollinators).
Selling pesticide products
Like the majority of UK supermarkets, Aldi continues to sell pesticides on its shelves. While the company does publish some guidance on its website about the potential dangers to health and environment associated to using these products, it does not provide this information to its customers at the point of sale in-store, beyond what is included on the label. However, the company told PAN UK, that unlike some other supermarkets, they do not offer deals and discounts on pesticides. This is a positive since it discourages people from buying more than they need and getting rid of the excess down the drain or in the bin, which can contaminate water and soil. Aldi also told PAN UK that they sell non-chemical alternatives to pesticides, but make no particular efforts to advertise their benefits to customers.
Boosting organic sales
Aldi has its own organic range but told PAN UK that just 0.32% of their sales are of organic products. The company also stated that it does not have any specific plans in place to increase their organic sales or to expand any of the organic ranges they stock. This sits in contrast to their sister company in the USA which is taking a much more proactive approach. However, Aldi did tell PAN UK that they regularly promote organic produce, including baby food, through their ‘Super 6’ promotions and ‘SpecialBuy’ programme.
Being transparent about pesticides
Aldi could be much more transparent regarding pesticides in their supply chain. Currently their customers have no way of finding out what pesticides are used in the company’s global supply chains or which pesticide residues appear in the food they sell. The company does not currently have any information on its website regarding its approach to pesticides or plans for reduction. It does not publish its pesticide policy or the results of its residue testing programme. PAN UK requested a copy of Aldi’s list of prohibited pesticides but the company declined to provide it, giving the fact it changes over time as the main reason. However, Aldi did tell PAN UK that they intend to launch a webpage covering pesticides in early 2020.