Every day the ICA Group sells large quantities of goods in five different countries. To conserve the planet’s resources ICA is constantly seeking new ways to reduce its environmental impact and to protect and preserve biodiversity. In 2012 ICA’s Swedish sourcing operations gained environmental certification to the international standard ISO 14001.
During the year ICA became a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and of the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). In the past ICA was affiliated to these via the membership of its former owner Royal Ahold.
In the mid-1990s in Sweden, ICA and WWF in collaboration developed the product "Naturbeteskött", free range beef from animals that have grazed natural pastures. Since the collaboration started, more than 90,000 acres of pastureland have been restored in Sweden, which means that the biodiversity has been preserved. Animal grazing, trampling and manure, are important prerequisites for protecting biodiversity in pastures. The free range meat is extra tender and tasty because the animals graze outdoors and the long tendering process. The meat is sold in ICA's Swedish stores under the ICA Selection brand, products specially selected by ICA. ICA Sweden’s line of free range beef now consists of a total of 6 (9) products. Sales in 2013 corresponded to around 1,300 (1,700) head of free range cattle, while around 8,000 (11,000) acres of Swedish pastureland have been preserved.
The ICA Group has taken a stand in several ways to protect endangered species of fish, using WWF’s guides for Sweden and Norway detailing red, yellow and green rated fish. As far as possible, ICA avoids including red rated seafood in its main product range sold to the stores. During the year no red rated items were included in the main product range in Sweden. ICA Sweden has around fifty MSC-certified products in its main product range. During the year the range was expanded to include MSC-labelled frozen white tuna steaks.
Certified palm oil
The manufacture of ICA's corporate food brands on the Swedish market requires around 2,200 tonnes of palm oil annually. By 2015, all palm oil used in ICA's Swedish private labels must be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). The intention is to get more palm oil plantations to shoulder their environmental as well as their social and economic responsibilities and to conserve the rainforests. RSPO-certified palm oil is used in products such as ICA’s private label popcorn. Currently ICA purchases Green Palm certificates to encourage more plantations to adhere to RSPO’s criteria.
ICA Norway has intensified its efforts to remove palm oil from its private label products wherever possible. The goal is to phase out all palm oil in private label products.
FSC-labelling of wood raw material
ICA is continually striving to introduce more FSC-labelled products and packaging into its range, to help consumers make conscious choices. FSC-labelling means that the raw material comes from forestry that maintains high environmental values, works to prevent deforestation and safeguards human rights. During the summer season, for example, ICA sells around 10,000 tonnes of FSC-labelled barbeque charcoal and more than 15,000 FSC-labelled items of garden furniture. In 2013 ICA also launched private label milk in FSC-labelled packaging.
Development and sales of organic products still differ greatly among ICA’s various markets. ICA Sweden is already far out in front, while demand is lower in the Baltic countries where the term organic is associated more with health issues than environmental ones.
Demand for ICA’s organic range remains strong in Sweden. ICA's efforts to support customers' sustainable choice is visible especially in the sales of organic fruits and vegetables, which grew by 27% (13%) in 2013. In total, sales of organic produce in ICA Sweden’s main product range increased by 16% (0.3%) during the year. There was more than 1,100 (1,021) organic products in ICA Sweden’s main product range.
ICA’s organic private label, ICA I love eco, is available in all the Group's markets. Products in the ICA I love eco range are certified to the EU’s organic criteria and sometimes also according to KRAV rules in Sweden or Debio in Norway. Animal-based ingredients in ICA’s private label organic products must be approved according to KRAV in Sweden or Debio in Norway, both of which place more stringent requirements on animal welfare than the EU. During 2013, the sale of ICA I love eco products increased by 24% (10%) and the range included a total of around 220 (225) ICA I love eco products.
Materials and chemicals
ICA works actively to limit the use of chemicals that could be harmful to humans and the environment. Suppliers must sign an agreement undertaking to comply with the Group's chemical restrictions. This is monitored by random sampling and inspections.
In recent years many consumers have been concerned about bisphenol A (BPA) in packaging and products. ICA Sweden phased out BPA in cash register receipts, baby bottles and other children’s products a number of years ago. The substance has also been phased out from plastic food containers and certain packaging, with cartons now being used instead of tins. During the year ICA began selling its private label tuna in new innovative packaging which is BPA-free and more efficient to transport. ICA aims to gradually phase out packaging containing BPA entirely.
During the year ICA Sweden was inspected by the Swedish Chemicals Agency, which took random samples from plastic toys. The results were good and no incidences of non-compliance were reported.