Press release: 18 November 2021
Supermarket group faces challenge over plastic failings
One of the world’s largest international grocery retail groups has been reported to the Dutch financial regulator for failing to disclose key information on its use of plastics and for failing to report plastic-related risk to its investors, in breach of its legal requirements.
The environmental law charity ClientEarth and Dutch NGO Plastic Soup Foundation filed the complaint today – the first of its kind in the Netherlands.
Grocery retailers like Ahold Delhaize are a major source of plastic packaging, which is the largest single use of plastics and makes up an even greater proportion of plastic waste. Research by Plastic Soup Foundation found that more than 80% of Albert Heijn – one of Ahold Delhaize’s supermarkets – products are packaged in single-use plastic.
These supermarkets’ reliance on plastics means that they are very vulnerable to key regulatory and cultural changes coming their way:
- New EU laws and policies aimed at reducing plastic waste and carbon emissions. These will impact any company whose business model relies on plastics.
- Increasing public awareness of the negative impacts of plastics on the environment, the climate and our health.
- New legal action on plastic pollution as citizens and NGOs take action against companies involved in the plastics crisis.
In their complaint, ClientEarth and Plastic Soup Foundation explain that these trends amount to material financial risks and as such, need to be disclosed to investors – which Ahold Delhaize does not do.
ClientEarth plastics lawyer Rosa Pritchard said: “As one of the world’s largest supermarket groups, Ahold Delhaize heavily relies on single-use plastics to make its business work. But the regulatory landscape is changing at speed, threatening business models dependent on wasteful single-use plastics and leaving companies like Ahold Delhaize exposed to serious financial headwinds. Yet Ahold Delhaize has not disclosed this information to investors – which is a breach of EU law.”
Key findings from the lawyers’ review of Ahold Delhaize’s reporting include that:
- It does not disclose the amount of plastic it uses.
- It does not mention the impact the plastic it uses has on the environment, the climate and people’s health.
- It provides notably less information on its use of plastic packaging than many of its peers.
- It does not acknowledge that its use of plastic packaging generates financial risks to its business.
ClientEarth and Plastic Soup Foundation said that a robust response from Ahold Delhaize as well as a strong signal from the regulator are needed.
Jurjen de Waal, Plastic Soup Foundation’s plastic waste campaigner, said: “As a market-leader, Ahold Delhaize needs to address its overreliance on plastics and turn off the tap on single-use plastic packaging. It should do this by including re-use and refill options and cutting out unnecessary packaging.”
Pritchard added: “The AFM is responsible for enforcing the law so that financial players have relevant information to make sustainable investment decisions.”
Notes to editors:
- ClientEarth and Plastic Soup Foundation allege that Ahold Delhaize is breaching its legal requirements under the EU Non-Financial Reporting Directive.
- This the first public complaint concerning non-financial reporting in the Netherlands.
- The complaint was handed to the Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM). It is at the AFM’s discretion whether or not it takes enforcement action against Ahold Delhaize.
- In September, ClientEarth published a report on the rise of plastic-related financial risks, which argued that when it comes to plastics, the traditional triad of transition, reputational and litigation risks are related to three key impacts: waste, climate and human health.
- ClientEarth has previously reported Balfour Beatty, Bodycote, EnQuest and EasyJet to the UK Financial Reporting Council and Just Eat and Carnival to the UK Financial Conduct Authority for their failure to report climate risk.
ClientEarth is a non-profit organisation that uses the law to create systemic change that protects the Earth for – and with – its inhabitants. We are tackling climate change, protecting nature and stopping pollution, with partners and citizens around the globe. We hold industry and governments to account, and defend everyone’s right to a healthy world. From our offices in Europe, Asia and the USA we shape, implement and enforce the law, to build a future for our planet in which people and nature can thrive together.