Europe is heading for a global pioneering role in climate protection and has recently confirmed this with the ambitious goals of the European Union’s Green Deal. In this concept, companies are seen as key players and drivers of change. As part of the Rewe Group, we are also striving to be climate neutral at the corporate level by 2040 and want to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 30% as early as 2030 compared to 2019. Our climate reduction targets are ambitious and a clear commitment to an effective and measurable sustainability strategy. At toom Baumarkt, we are ready to implement effective measures that contribute to the European Commission’s targets as defined in the Green Deal. The path to a climate-neutral economy for the European community of states can only be taken together. For each sector and each company, it is important to identify their greatest levers to actively contribute to achieving the goals.

Great savings potential through energy-efficient buildings

Given the potential of energy-efficient buildings to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, the European Commission proposed the revision of the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive in December last year. The revision aims to bring the directive in line with the European Green Deal and set the course for the decarbonization of the building stock by 2050.

With over 300 stores, toom was quick to prioritize resource-efficient operation of its DIY stores. Both in new buildings and the conversion of existing locations, toom focuses on the careful use of resources and investment in forward-looking technologies, thereby continuously reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. With this vision in mind, toom introduced a sustainable building concept back in 2011, which is consistently pursued in new buildings and the modernization of existing properties. With an average weighted sales area of 6,700 square meters, a DIY store ultimately offers several opportunities to implement more sustainable solutions. These include the switch to LED lighting concepts, the installation of water-saving fittings as well as the energetic refurbishment of heating systems. The installation of photovoltaic systems and e-quick charging points for customer vehicles in cooperation with EnBW is also part of the conversion measures.

Already 15 toom stores have been certified with the “Gold” Green Building seal of approval by the German Sustainable Building Council (DGNB), which is only awarded to properties with particularly energy-efficient and sustainable construction methods. At toom, this means that a Green Building store, such as the one in Alzey in Rhineland-Palatinate, contributes directly to significantly reducing CO2 emissions: In total, this is already around 50 thousand tonnes/year compared to the reference year 2012.

As part of REWE Group, toom has also been purchasing green electricity exclusively from renewable sources since 2008, and in the future also from the Borkum Riffgrund 3 North Sea wind farm, which is expected to be completed in 2025. REWE Group will purchase a good tenth of the total annual capacity of around 900 megawatts and thus operate 1,500 REWE, PENNY, and toom DIY stores. With a long-term supply contract for green electricity, REWE Group is investing directly in the expansion of renewable energies and making an active contribution to achieving climate targets.

Thought through to the end: product design as the key to the circular economy

For toom, the EU’s Green Deal also means enormous potential for a circular economy. The optimization of products and packaging according to the principle of avoiding, reducing, improve has been a central building block in the product development of toom’s brands for many years. In addition to the reduction of material use and recyclability, we are pursuing an increased use of post-consumer recyclate (PCR) in products and packaging. This is because recycling this material as a raw material for new products and packaging is an important step towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions in production. For example, in 2011, toom was the first German DIY store to introduce emulsion paints in buckets made of recycled plastic and has already been able to save over 1000t of CO2.

However, to ensure the availability of recycled material, the recycling rate of plastic must be increased and material flows of secondary raw materials within Europe must be promoted. The European Green Deal should set the legal course for this. By 2030, it should be possible to reuse or recycle all plastic packaging used in the EU. On the one hand, this requires investments in better collection and sorting systems as well as in new technologies for processing. At the same time, there is a clear mandate for manufacturers to prioritize recyclability, the reduction of material input, and the use of secondary raw materials and thus support the transformation to a circular economy. Even packaging optimizations such as changing the color scheme can make a big difference. For example, black plastics cannot be recognized by many sorting machines in waste recycling. As a result, they are not recycled. This is why toom is changing the films in the earth packaging of its brands to recyclable silver films, which are also made of PCR. With the gradual changeover to PCR material, we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the earth packaging of our brands by 49%. This example illustrates the importance of product and packaging design in achieving the company’s own climate goals.

Reusable instead of disposable

Besides recycling, reusable systems are the decisive answer to the question of how we can sustainably conserve resources. This is because the environmental impacts from the production, transport, and use of packaging are spread over several cycles of use in reusable concepts. Therefore, reusable systems should be promoted wherever possible. The German food industry is already very advanced in this respect. Other sectors, however, are still at the beginning.

We are also working intensively on this topic in the DIY sector. Especially in the garden sector, several million disposable plant pallets are produced each year for transport in German DIY stores. This is plastic waste that we at toom want to counteract in the future. In a pilot project, selected plants will only be delivered in so-called reusable trays. Producers collect the pallets from the toom plant warehouse in Bottrop and use them to deliver the items. The goods are then delivered to the individual stores in these reusable pallets. From the stores, the pallets are transported back before being returned to the nurseries there. There they are prepared for the next use after each use. In contrast to disposable pallets, their stability means they can be used for years and are also 100 percent recyclable. The concept is currently being tested in a few selected stores. With the introduction of this reusable system, we can not only significantly reduce the amount of plastic waste but also reduce CO2 emissions.

Reaching the goal together

We at toom see many opportunities in our industry to initiate change and make a positive impact. These opportunities are certainly associated with challenges, but they can be overcome in a joint effort. This requires strong allies from business and civil society. At the same time, we cannot go down this path without committed and motivated employees. With over 300 stores throughout Germany and more than 19,000 employees, this requires clear and transparent communication of our sustainability goals and measures.

Ultimately, our employees are important multipliers both within the company and externally to consumers. Among other things, they take on the important task of sensitizing our customers to more sustainable consumer behavior and drawing their attention to more sustainable product alternatives. This awareness-raising plays an important role on the path to a greener future because without social acceptance and support, changes are difficult to implement.

For us, as one of the largest German companies in the DIY sector, it is important to put our activities and commitment in a wider context and to contribute to overarching goals also at the European level. Strong climate targets and a commitment to a more sustainable economy are part of this. Companies that take up the challenges of today and initiate change can contribute significantly to accelerating reduction measures at the national and European levels.

René Haßfeld
Toom Baumarkt GmbH