Coop: A leader in climate action

Annina Böhlen is responsible for the Coop sustainability fund. We asked her to tell us about Coop’s climate strategy and what they are doing to ensure their long-term corporate success. 

Gold Standard: Can you give us an overview of Coop’s climate strategy?
Annina Böhlen: From production and transport through to the sales outlet, Coop makes a conscious effort to use energy carefully to protect the climate.
In 2008, Coop drew up its “CO2-neutral by 2023” vision. To achieve this vision, Coop is cutting its absolute energy consumption by 20% each year and increasing the proportion of renewable energy to 80%.
Coop is focusing on the following CO2 reduction measures:
  • Stores: Coop systematically implements the Minergie low-energy standard in all new and refurbished buildings, using LED technology and CO2 as a refrigerant. In addition, Coop also makes increasing use of renewable energy sources such as wood chips and heat pumps for heat generation.
  • Transport: Wherever possible, Coop transports goods by rail. For its lorries, environmentally friendly fuels such as biodiesel, biogas or electricity from renewable energy sources are used.
  • Production facilities: Coop makes use of the resulting waste heat and cold from the production facilities
Coop has also succeeded in reducing its annual CO2 emissions from 2008 by 24.8 percent (as at 2015) in absolute terms, thereby remaining in line with its vision.
Besides the reduction measures of the "CO2-neutral by 2023" vision, Coop also compensates the air miles traveled by its goods and its staff business trips and has been doing this since 2007. In addition to this, Coop also offsets the CO2 emissions caused by deliveries as part of the Coop@home online service, working with WWF to support CO2-reducing projects that are certified to the Gold Standard.
GS: Does COOP use an internal price on carbon? If so, how does it influence your decision-making?
AB: The goal of reaching “CO2 neutrality by 2023” meant that Coop had to closely examine its potential for reducing energy requirements and increase its use of waste heat and renewable energy sources. To help Coop do this, it has defined innovative principles for evaluating investments and for decision-making processes. The investment evaluation process focuses on the investment's lifetime and anticipates possible increases in energy prices. In order to drive investment in emissions reduction activities, Coop introduced in 2010 an internal price of carbon of 150 CHF/t CO2.
GS: Why did you decide to begin investing in climate protection projects? Are you interested primarily in ‘climate neutral’ claims?
AB: No, Coop does not make any climate neutral claims. Coop is convinced that sustainability is a cornerstone of long-term corporate success. As a cooperative, Coop pledged 150 years ago to procure products in a cost-effective way while preserving the commercial and social interests of our members. Today, these rightful interests include preventing any negative impact resulting from its business activities and conducting its business in a sustainable manner. Environmental protection has been enshrined in our Articles of Association since 1973.
GS: Why did you decide to support Gold Standard projects in particular?
AB: The Gold Standard guarantees high quality emission reduction projects. Together with WWF, Coop has developed Gold Standard projects that fit within the Coop value chain.
By choosing Gold Standard, Coop ensures that its CO2-reducing projects are not only real and verifiable, but also make measurable contributions to sustainable development - benefiting the local communities involved in the Coop value chain.
GS: Gold Standard credits are known to sell at higher prices, and some project types, like cookstoves, come at a premium. How do you consider this in your decision-making? And does Coop have a point of view on sustainable pricing for emissions reductions in carbon markets?
AB: Coop invests only in certificates which meet the highest requirements and which are supported by WWF. Therefore Gold Standard is a basic requirement for all our certificates.
By working with WWF, Coop is able to invest in the development of projects that help support its value chain and is committed to pay a price which guarantees not only a reduction in CO2-emissions but also enables co-benefits regarding biodiversity, livelihood, health impacts and employment.
GS: Which Gold Standard projects do you invest in? How did you select them? Do they meet different objectives for COOP?
AB: Coop chooses projects that are located along its value chain. Coop works with WWF to develop these projects from scratch, rather than selecting projects that are already in existence. Coop wants the projects to achieve the highest possible benefit for the environment and the local population involved in its value chain.
GS: What other CSR commitments do you have? Do you consider outcomes from these climate protection projects as delivering against your other CSR or sustainability priorities?
AB: Coop pursues a comprehensive sustainability strategy based on three pillars and ensures that sustainability is incorporated into all relevant company strategies and processes.
We’ve already talked about "resource efficiency and climate protection." The next pillar is sustainable products and services. Coop's broad range of organically, humanely and fairly produced goods allows Coop to offer consumers the chance to make environmentally and socially responsible purchases. Coop's internal guidelines dictate that goods may only be transported by air if there are no other options available due to quality reasons or lack of time – and for all those products that do travel by air the emissions are compensated.
The third pillar of our sustainability activities refers to our employees and the society. An important tool here is the Coop Sustainability Fund: The fund allows the origination of innovative solutions in socially and environmentally relevant areas and thus to make consumption more sustainable and to give something back to society. 
The Coop Sustainability Fund invests at least CHF 16.5 million every year for this purpose. Coop's emission reduction projects are also financed by the fund.
GS: What are your reflections on COP21? Has the Paris Agreement figured into any of your discussions for the future? If so, how?
AB: Already in 2008, Coop formulated the vision of achieving CO2 neutrality in all of its retail and production activities by 2023. With this in view COP21 did not directly influence Coop's decisions. But in the run-up to COP21, Coop, alongside WWF and others, took part in a campaign to ensure that Switzerland sets itself more ambitious climate objectives. The outcomes from Paris have strengthened our determination to continue consistently on the chosen path to CO2 neutrality.