Amid rising concern about an “insect apocalypse” and the decimation of bees and butterflies — the small but mighty pollinators responsible for one in three bites of food we eat — retailers are beginning to step up to address the routine and unnecessary use of toxic pesticides in their supply chains. The same pesticides that threaten pollinators also harm human health. By moving major companies toward less-toxic practices, we aim to create a healthier food system for pollinators and other critical biodiversity as well as people, from farmworkers to eaters.
To spur a race to the top, Friends of the Earth created a retailer scorecard benchmarking 25 of the largest U.S. grocery stores on pesticides, organic offerings and pollinator health. Since 2018, ten food retailers have created pollinator health policies addressing pesticides.
Grocery Retailers Will Feel the Sting of Pollinator Declines
Only Giant Eagle and Walmart have made time-bound commitments to protect pollinators. Giant Eagle committed to eliminate pollinator-toxic nitroguanidine neonicotinoid pesticides from its produce supply chain by 2025. Giant Eagle and Walmart will require that all fresh produce suppliers adopt ecological farming methods known as integrated pest management (IPM), as verified by a vetted list of third-party certifications, by 2025. Eight other companies — Albertsons, Aldi, Costco, Dollar Tree, Kroger, Meijer, Rite Aid, and Target — have created policies that encourage food and beverage suppliers to reduce use of pesticides of concern and to shift to least-toxic approaches, but the policies do not include metrics or targets for implementation. The majority of the company policies state a commitment to expand organic offerings, which are grown without the use of over 900 pesticides otherwise allowed in agriculture.
These are important first steps. But the extinction crisis demands that all food retailers make time-bound commitments to phase out toxic pesticides and support a transition to organic and regenerative agriculture, which is better for pollinators, people and the planet.
Without pollinators, grocery stores would run short of a wide assortment of fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans and delicious treats like chocolate and coffee. And because bees pollinate alfalfa and other crops eaten by cows, even the dairy and meat shelves would look bare. Learn more about the economic risks of pollinator declines.
Which Company Owns Your Local Grocery Store?
Did you know that Albertsons owns Safeway and ten other grocery stores, and Kroger owns Harris Teeter and over 25 others? Check out this chart to find out which company owns your local grocery store.
And did you know that some of the largest “grocery stores” in the U.S. are pharmacies and discount stores? The chart also shows how the companies we evaluated rank in terms of annual grocery sales.
How does your grocery store’s score compare to last year?
Check out the executive summary of the 2020 Bee-Friendly Retailer Scorecard here.
Scores by category
To highlight leaders and laggards, Friends of the Earth created a retailer scorecard benchmarking 25 of the largest U.S. grocers against four criteria: policies, implementation, transparency and collaboration. Additional points were awarded for companies with complimentary pesticide policies in their home & garden supply chains.
We looked at whether companies are setting goals to reduce use of pesticides of concern in their food and beverage supply chains, what they are doing to increase organic offerings and whether they are taking steps to support non-organic farmers to shift to least-toxic, bee-friendly approaches like integrated pest management and regenerative agriculture. We also looked at whether they are educating consumers about these issues and if they are using their power to advocate for public policies that shift government support from pesticide-intensive agriculture to organic and ecological farming systems. Additional points were awarded for complimentary policies in home and garden supply chains.
To see the grading rubric, click here.
Grades were assigned based on publicly available information concerning retailer policies and self-reported information concerning retailer practices. We reviewed publicly available information, including company websites, annual reports, SEC filings, corporate social responsibility and sustainability reports, press coverage and industry analyses.
We sent a provisional grade and scoresheet to each company by email and gave companies four months to respond with updates and corrections. The following companies responded: Ahold Delhaize, Aldi, Costco, CVS, Giant Eagle, Walmart, Meijer, Target, Dollar Tree, Walgreens, and Whole Foods. Dollar General responded via collaborating organization Campaign for Healthier Solutions, which has an ongoing dollar store campaign.
*Although Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017, we graded these companies separately given that Whole Foods still maintains distinct policies and a substantially different business model. As of September, 2021, 502 of Amazons’ 538 brick-and-mortar grocery locations are Whole Foods stores. The remainder are Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores.